Lee Charlton and Ross Grace, Jr. to receive UMass Dartmouth Drum Major Award

Dartmouth, MA University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Chancellor Jean F. MacCormack announced today that community activist Lee Charlton, President of the NAACP, and campus leader Ross M. Grace, Jr., Assistant Director of the University?s Frederick Douglass Unity House, were selected to receive the University?s first ?Drum Major Award?. The award is given in recognition of the significant contributions made by community and campus leaders toward realizing Dr. King?s dream of equality, social justice, and peace.

Dartmouth, MA University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Chancellor Jean F. MacCormack announced today that community activist Lee Charlton, President of the NAACP, and campus leader Ross M. Grace, Jr., Assistant Director of the University’s Frederick Douglass Unity House, were selected to receive the University’s first “Drum Major Award”. The award is given in recognition of the significant contributions made by community and campus leaders toward realizing Dr. King’s dream of equality, social justice, and peace. 

The Drum Major Award will be presented at the second annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast to be held on the morning of Friday, January 30, 2004, in the UMass Dartmouth Campus Center. This unique award was created by the University to acknowledge the contributions of both campus and community leaders who work diligently to keep Dr. King’s dream alive. UMass Dartmouth will donate $1,000 to a charity of choice in the name of each award recipient. 

“Throughout his career at New Bedford High School and the Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School, Lee Charlton has been a dedicated member of and volunteer for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People,” said Chancellor MacCormack. “Lee joined the New Bedford NAACP branch in 1971 and for the past twenty-two years, he has served as its President.” 

In 1999, Mr. Charlton was elected 1st Vice President of the New England Area Conference of the NAACP, an organization comprised of the twenty-two branches of the NAACP located in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont. He has been recognized as a tireless advocate in his efforts to uphold the constitution of the NAACP. In doing so, Mr. Charlton has improved the political, educational, social and economic status of many minority groups in the region. 

Recognizing the financial rigors that many students face in paying for their college education, Mr. Charlton established the Carolyn Wilder Emergency Assistance Fund to assist students who have exhausted all other resources to stay in college. Since its inception in 1996 this fund has helped 32 students attain a college education. 

Chancellor MacCormack described Ross Grace, Jr. as a dedicated campus leader that has made a career of working with young adults of diverse ethnic, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds in the complex setting of higher education. 

“In his capacity at the Unity House, Ross Grace helps to enrich the lives of the University’s students of all backgrounds. He supports them in their endeavors for academic and cultural development,” said Chancellor MacCormack. “Ross has great rapport with students, and has earned the trust and respect of many members of the University community.” 

Working as a student adjustment counselor in the New Bedford Public Schools, Mr. Grace developed diverse, relevant support groups for at-risk students. He provided crisis counseling and peer mediation and developed a mentoring program with junior high and high school students. While working as a community service coordinator for Youthbuild - New Bedford AmeriCorps, Mr. Grace shared his knowledge and positive energy to help high school dropouts rebuild their lives through community service and beautification projects. Many of those students also received training so that they could successfully complete the requirements for earning a General Equivalency Diploma (GED). 

Mr. Grace is a Little League Baseball coach in the Greater New Bedford Baseball League and is currently serving on the advisory board of the West End Day Nursery. He was a co-founder of the Sunz of Panthers, a community organization that targets at-risk young men of color and assists them with academic counseling and tutoring. Mr. Ross is also the co-coordinator of a local cable access community television program, On the Positive Tip, that airs discussions on topics relevant to young people. 

“The Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast provides an opportunity for the community to focus on the visions and ideals of Dr. King and to share those values with each other,” added Assistant Chancellor George Smith. “In these times of escalating violence and intolerance, it is more important than ever that we keep Dr. King’s dreams of equality and social justice at the forefront of our society.” 

Tickets for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast are available until January 29th and can be obtained by contacting Dr. George Smith at 508-999-8008. 


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