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U of M Will Present Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Award and Scholarship April 4

For release: March 29, 2011
For press information, contact Curt Guenther, 901/678-2843

The University of Memphis will present the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Award to Dr. Vivian Gunn Morris in a ceremony Monday, April 4, at 2 p.m. in the University Center Theatre. The award recognizes individuals whose activities exemplify non-violent leadership in the pursuit of social justice and human rights.

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship also will be awarded at the ceremony. The 2011 recipient is Tishira Lamari Smith, a senior majoring in African and African-American studies. She is the daughter of Dora and Willie Rogers Jr.

Dr. Vivian Gunn Morris
Dr. Vivian Gunn Morris
Dr. Morris is the recipient of numerous awards for excellence in research and scholarship. She has also presented her work to national, state and local organizations to advance the merits of providing a high quality education for African-American children and other children of color.  Among the groups she has addressed are the American Educational Research Association, National Association for the Education of Young Children, African American Males National Conference, Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations at the University of Florida, Tennessee Board of Regents, the National Conference on Civil/Human Rights of Africanans, and the Memphis Rotary Club.

She has published books, book chapters, and articles on the topics of urban education, early childhood education, family involvement in education, mentoring new teachers, and educating African-American children. Her research related to the education of African-American children appears in two books she co-authored with her husband, Curtis L. Morris: The Price They Paid: Desegregation in an African American Community and Creating Caring and Nurturing Educational Environments for African American Children. Related articles have been published in a variety of national and international journals.

Morris is a veteran P-12 teacher and is currently professor of education, assistant dean for Faculty and Staff Development in the College of Education, and director of the New Teacher Center at the University of Memphis. She has also taught at Alabama A & M University, Montclair State University, and the Community College of Philadelphia.

She holds a doctor of philosophy degree in inner city education, with an emphasis in early childhood education, from Vanderbilt University. She earned a bachelor of science degree in home economics and a master of science degree in elementary education, K-3 for the disadvantaged, from Alabama A & M University.

Her grandson, James Curtis Green, is a piano performance major at the University of Memphis.

Tishira Lamari Smith
Tishira Lamari Smith
Smith was born in Michigan but reared in Memphis. A graduate of Ridgeway High School in 2005, she attended Lane College that fall.  In the spring, she transferred to the University of Memphis; after going to school year-round to graduate sooner, she decided to enlist in the United States Army in 2007.  In 2008 she injured her knee during training at Fort Gordon, Georgia, and was honorably discharged from the Army in 2009.  She returned to Memphis to complete her degree.

In the fall of 2009 she became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and since then has discovered a passion for serving the community. She works as a tutor for Memphis Literacy Corps and volunteers with Lester Community Center. She is a member of Black Scholars, Students Advocating Service, P.A.U.S.E. and the NAACP.  She was also on the 2011 Basketball Homecoming Court.

She enjoys reading, studying about African-American history as it links African-Americans to the world, tutoring children, completing community service, writing poetry, and working out. She credits her stability and values to her parents, saying that without them she wouldn’t be such a driven, goal-oriented person. She also credits her mentors and advisors for helping her walk a consistent path to her collegiate success.

The public event is sponsored by African and African-American Studies and the Office of Diversity at the U of M.  For more information, call 901-678-3516.

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