The University of South Alabama Board of Trustees will convene in a regular meeting Dec. 4, and among the more routine items on the agenda is a resolution to award an honorary doctorate degree to U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia). Bob Lowry, USA’s director of communications and media relations, confirmed Wednesday that Lewis would be giving the keynote address at the fall commencement ceremony Dec. 12 at 2 p.m. in the Mitchell Center.
A native of Troy, Alabama, before his election in Georgia to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1987, Lewis was a leader of the Civil Rights movement, known for his roles as the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), organizing voter registration drives, community action programs and larger protests including the march on Washington D.C. in August 1963 and the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965.
In March 1965, he was among the marchers beaten by Alabama State Troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. He returned there earlier this year alongside President Barack Obama for the 50th anniversary commencement of the event.
In addition to his Civil Rights legacy, USA’s proposed resolution acknowledges Lewis’ “extraordinary work to advance human rights and equality,” as well as his receipt of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Doctor of Humane Letters (L.H.D.), honoris causa, will be awarded to Lewis at its fall commencement ceremony Dec. 12.
Lewis becomes the 18th recipient of an honorary doctorate degree from USA the third this year. The 51-year-old institution, which recorded a total enrollment of 16,462 this semester, awarded its first to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in 1997.
Other recipients include: Dr. David Satcher (2001), Phil Gramm and Abraham Mitchell (2002), Edward O. Wilson (2003), Rodrigo Carazo Odio (2004), Dr. Samuel O. Their (2005), Sen. Richard Shelby and Dr. Annette N. Shelby (2006), Mayer Mitchell (2007), Dr. Benjamin Carson (2008), Pat Covey (2009), Sen. Jeff Sessions (2011), U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner (2012), Jean J. Botti (2014), Richard E. Lapchick and Ray Mabus (2015).
In other business, the board will consider a one-time $1,000 salary supplement to be paid to all full-time general and health division employees — employed prior to June 1, 2015 — in lieu of an across-the-board permanent salary increase in 2016.
There are also motions to approve a construction contract for a new medical office facility in Fairhope, and the USA strategic plan for 2016-2020.
Updated Dec. 2 at 11:24 a.m. to note Rep. Lewis’ role as keynote speaker at fall commencement.
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