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Lecture series uses faith to build community

 

Adele S. Bonney

 

Cornell’s mission to build a community embracing tolerance and liberal learning has led to the creation of the Small-Thomas Lecture Series, “Dreams of Peace: Visions of the Future.” The lecture series brings to campus annually a speaker to address diversity and community from a background of faith. Co-sponsor is St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Cedar Rapids, where trustee Bruce Ough is senior minister.

The series began this year when Cornell and St. Paul’s hosted the Rev. Walter B. Johnson Jr., pastor of Wayman African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Cabrini-Green community of Chicago. Johnson addressed groups of youth, Cornell students, and area residents in sermons, forums, and lectures March 12-13 in Mount Vernon and Cedar Rapids.

Johnson has been called a coalition builder, credited with helping to keep a Chicago elementary school open and its children safe in the face of rising gang violence. He formed the Alliance for Community Peace, which pays adults in the Cabrini-Green neighborhood to escort children to and from school. He provides grief counseling to area residents, and children and their parents receive a variety of supportive services through the neighborhood’s Jenner Family Resource Center. Chicago magazine named Johnson one of eight Chicagoans of the Year for 1998.

The lecture series was conceived and funded by recent Cornell Board of Trustees Chair Richard Small ’50 and his wife, honorary alumna and trustee Norma Thomas Small. It is presented in honor of Cecil J. Thomas, honorary alum and Cornell buildings and grounds superintendent and consultant from 1956-91, and in memory of June L. Thomas, parents of Norma.
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