The University of St. Francis (USF) honored three community leaders during its recent Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration: Continuing the Journey.Illinois Congressman Bill Foster, 11th District, spoke during the celebration, sponsored by the university’s Office of Institutional Diversity, African American Alumni Association, Division of Student Affairs and Ethnic Affairs Council.
Congressman Foster attended the event “because he grew up in a family deeply committed to service to others. His father was trained as a chemist, but he spent much of his career as a Civil Rights lawyer and was, indeed, responsible for writing most of the enforcement language behind the Civil Rights Act of 1964—the part that withheld federal funding from public schools that refused to racially integrate their school systems. Congressman Foster’s mother ran a program that helped college students prepare for jobs in the police and criminal justice systems and helped already working officers to get college degrees,” said USF President Arvid Johnson as he welcomed Foster to the event.
“While we have come a long way in the last 50 years, we still have a great deal of work to do,” Foster told the audience of students and community members.
“We need to work to make sure everyone has the chance to realize the American dream – a good education, a job that pays a living wage and a safe place to call home. As we have learned from the work of civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., we can affect change by standing up, speaking out, fighting for what is right, and making our community a better place to live,” said the congressman.
Those honored by the University of St. Francis in celebration of the life and works of Martin Luther King, Jr. are living examples of community service and leadership, said Billie Terrell, professor and director of Institutional Diversity, who presented the awards.The Academic Excellence Award was presented to Mattie D. Barnes, “a fierce advocate of education.” A retired teacher, dean and principal, Barnes earned her doctorate degree from Northern Illinois University. During her career, Barnes held several significant positions—influencing the lives of many—including teaching Language Arts and African American Literature, chairing the Language Arts Department at Joliet East High School and serving as dean of students for Joliet Central High School. She was also a summer school principal, a professional development presenter, an instructor at Joliet Junior College and at the University of St. Francis, as well as a Hospice communication instructor; plus she taught Sunday School at Brown Chapel AME Church.
Mattie D. Barnes (left) was presented with the Academic Excellence Award by Billie Terrell, professor of Social Work, at the University of St. Francis Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration. Barnes, of Joliet, served on the boards of directors for Crisis Line and Hospice; co-founded Joliet Area Alumni Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; served as president of the National Hook-Up of Black Women, Inc.; and tutored students after school at the Harvey Brooks Foundation.
Barnes is an advocate for causes that support children, and she presently coordinates curriculum for childcare and tutors students after school at Forest Park Community Center.
She has been the recipient of the NAACP Outstanding and Dedicated Educator Award, National Hook-Up of Black Women Gold Star Outstanding Service Award and the Hospice Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award.
Attorney Vincent F. Cornelius, a USF alumnus, was presented with the Special Achievement Award. Cornelius has been the principal of the Law Office of Vincent F. Cornelius since 1994 with a focus in civil and criminal litigation. He was an Assistant State’s Attorney in the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office where he served as a felony prosecutor. .Cornelius earned his law degree from the Northern Illinois University College of Law, where he is a frequent speaker and currently serves as a member of its Board of Visitors. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of St. Francis, where he was an Academic All-American athlete. He also served as vice-chairman of the university’s Board of Trustees. Cornelius has received the Outstanding Alumni Award and the Distinguished Alumni Award respectively from both universities.
A Naperville resident, Cornelius has served as president of the Illinois Bar Foundation and as third vice president of the Illinois State Bar Association for which he is presently on the Board of Governors. He is also a founding board member of the Black Bar Association of Will County.
Retired Will County Judge Raymond A. Bolden received the Lifetime Service Award. Bolden is a graduate of Joliet Township High School and Joliet Junior College; he earned his law degree at the University of Illinois. He served four years in the United States Air Force and as special agent in the Organized Crime Division of the Internal Revenue Service, before opening his law practice in Joliet in 1964. He was appointed as a Will County associate judge in 1986 and served with distinction for 14 years.
Bolden served as president of the Joliet branch of the NAACP during the historic Civil Rights movement. He and his late wife, Kathleen, worked tirelessly to combat discrimination in housing, education and employment. In 2007, he was awarded the NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award.He is a co-founder and board member of the Warren-Sharpe Community Center, which provides services to low-income youth and families on Joliet’s south side. He is an active member of Sacred Heart Church and has served on numerous commissions.
Bolden believes that “America has been a country long on words and short on actions. Even though strides have been made, there’s still a constant struggle.
“It’s no longer a battle of black and white water fountains or school buses,” said Bolden. “Now it’s about economic justice and educational funding.”
The Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration: Continuing the Journey event also included performances by The Mighty Men of Zion, Prayer Tower Mime Ministry and Javen Smith. USF alumna Jacqueline Larry and student Erayna Wright also performed.
The University of St. Francis in Joliet serves 3,400 students nationwide, offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs in arts and science, business, education, nursing, health care and social work. For information, call (800) 735-7500 or visit www.stfrancis.edu.
Nancy Pohlman, Executive Director of Community Relations
(815) 740-3379 | firstname.lastname@example.org