An outspoken, longtime leader with the Kentucky Conference for Community and Justice (KCCJ) calls Georgetown College and President Bill Crouch “change agents for the nation as well as the South.”

“I almost feel like Martin Luther King Jr. is saying this is the kind of change institutions need to inspire students and open up a field of opportunities for a lifetime,” said Debra Hensley, board co-chair of the non-profit KCCJ.

Hensley challenged – a favorite word of the KCCJ, as it seeks to speak out and raise awareness – Georgetown College to continue embracing change as President Crouch accepted a 2007 Lauren K. Weinberg Humanitarian Award at the annual banquet April 19 at Lexington’s Marriott Griffin Gate Resort. Three individuals – Chester and Ann Grundy, who helped create and sustain Lexington’s Roots & Heritage Festival and Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration, as well as UK’s Spotlight Jazz Series; and the well-known Habitat volunteer Pat Smith, who died in the crash of Comair flight 5191 – also received Weinberg awards.

This small social justice organization has been recognizing individuals and a handful of organizations or institutions since 1950 for embodying its vision of an equitable world that accepts the full and equal worth for all human beings. Arguably, their annual awards are central Kentucky’s most meaningful because they reward those who dare make a difference in the face of apathy and/or adversity – and not merely donors to the organization. In 1993, the (then) Bluegrass chapter of the National Conference of Community and Justice renamed their annual awards in honor of their passionate executive director of 13 years who died far too young of cancer at age 48. Today, the KCCJ seeks to collaborate with other social justice organizations.

“Lauren would have been especially glad for Georgetown because it personifies what she, the KCCJ and the (national) NCCJ stood for – the efforts to diversify and expose students to different people and ideas,” said Simone Salomon, who was recruited by Weinberg as a volunteer more than 25 years ago and served as interim director and board chair after her death.

Salomon said President Crouch explained to her that the campus isn’t as diverse as his young people need for success in the wider world because most of Georgetown’s student body comes from in-state. “This attitude takes courage,” she said.

Georgetown’s initiatives that impressed KCCJ include:

  • the “pull through” scholarships the College has announced for five middle school children in the Baptist Church of Bracktown’s Black Male Working Academy
  • the partnership with Bishop College alumni, which will include a building on Georgetown’s campus, pull-through scholarships and a business leadership program
  • finessing the new working relationship with the Kentucky Baptist Convention in a amicable way

The above are merely the new pieces to the puzzle; President Crouch actually has been laying ground work for years – including formation of our Underground Railroad Research Institute and the partnership with the four national Black Baptist Conventions summer before last.

Sandy Canon, honorary dinner chair for the April event, helped Crouch and a committee with the language for the College’s current diversity statement four years ago that is intended to position Georgetown for Phi Beta Kappa status. “I thought then – wow! No other faith-based institution has done this,” she recalled.

Canon said she’d never forget Crouch telling her: “This is going to be tough, but it’s the right thing to do – it’s the right thing for the students to bring the world to them and prepare them for what’s next.”

Neither will she forget the look on Crouch’s face when she got to spring news of the award in front of all our trustees at the April meeting. “He was moved – the board was moved….they gave him two standing ovations,” said Canon, crediting Georgetown trustee Mike Scanlon – a former KCCJ board member – for arranging the surprise.

Lexington attorney Reggie Thomas, the other co-chair of KCCJ’s board, says Georgetown College must continue to be innovative if it truly wants to make a difference and do its part to eradicate racism. For true diversity, he would next have the College focus on the recruitment of faculty and administration – as well as other areas of personnel such as athletic staff and student life.

“We live in a society where you cannot say there is a dominant culture – and that’s what makes American rich,” Thomas said.

“The more exposure to different kinds of people, the more successful (Georgetown) students will be as they move through life.”