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Elizabeth Eckford in front of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.

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Civil Rights Icon to Receive Honorary Degree, Deliver Evening Program

Elizabeth Eckford is being honored for her courage and leadership at a pivotal moment in the struggle for civil rights as a member of the Little Rock Nine.

September 05, 2018

Elizabeth Eckford in front of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Knox College will formally open the 2018-19 academic year with its annual Opening Convocation. Civil rights icon Elizabeth Eckford will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the College and will deliver remarks. Eckford is being honored for her courage and leadership at a pivotal moment in the struggle for civil rights as a member of the Little Rock Nine.

Convocation starts at 11:00 a.m on Wednesday, September 12, and will be held on the South Lawn of Old Main (new location), on the Knox campus in Galesburg, Illinois. The event is free and open to the public.

Knox holds the convocation annually on the first day of class of the academic year. The event also includes the presentation of the Janet Hunter Prizes for outstanding accomplishments and service by members of the College staff; two faculty awards, the Philip Green Wright/Lombard College Prizes for Distinguished Teaching; and two student awards, the Elbridge Pierce Prize for scholastic improvement and the Faculty Scholarship Prize.

Later that evening, Eckford will give the presentation, "Individual Voices Matter: Civil Rights Icon Elizabeth Eckford's Struggle for Equality and Acceptance," at 7:00 p.m. at the Orpheum Theatre (new location), 57 South Kellogg Street, Galesburg. She will be joined by Dr. Eurydice Stanley, who co-authored the book The Worst First Day: Bullied While Desegregating Central High, with Ms. Eckford. Both will sign copies of the book immediately following the presentation.

An icon of the American Civil Rights movement, Eckford was a member of the Little Rock Nine, who desegregated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, on September 4, 1957. Eckford was the first of the nine to arrive at the high school and was ultimately blocked from entering the school by the Arkansas National Guard and faced an incensed, segregationist mob alone, a moment captured in the iconic photograph by Will Counts. After completing high school, Eckford attended Knox College for a year in 1959, before returning to Little Rock and, ultimately, receiving her bachelor's degree in history from Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio. Eckford served in the U.S. Army for five years as a member of the Women's Army Corps (WAC) and was awarded the Army Good Conduct Medal while on active duty. Following her military career, she worked in a variety of positions before returning to Little Rock. Most recently, she served as a probation officer for County Circuit Court Judge Marion Humphrey for 10 years, retiring in 2009.

Photo above: Elizabeth Eckford in front of Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Photo below: Elizabeth Eckford walking to Little Rock Central High School in 1957 (Will Counts Collection: Indiana University Archives).

Eckford has received numerous awards and recognition for her courageous acts as a member of the Little Rock Nine, including the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation's highest civilian award, presented by President Bill Clinton in 1999; the prestigious Spingarn Medal by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1958; and the Lincoln Leadership Prize from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation in 2015. In 2018, Eckford released her first autobiography, The Worst First Day: Bullied While Desegregating Central High, co-authored by Dr. Eurydice Stanley and Grace Stanley, featuring the award-winning photography of Will Counts and the artwork of Rachel Gibson.

Dr. Eurydice Stanley is an international motivational speaker, author and retired Army veteran. She is the founder of Amused Media and Productions, LLC, an organizational development company; Lamp Press, LLC, a publication firm that aims to "shine the light" on underrepresented history; and The Transition Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps clients, especially veterans, deal with life's only constant: change. She has published more than 100 articles, authored three books, and holds numerous certifications in speech, training, leadership, and instructional design with organizations including the John Maxwell Team, Paradigm Personality Labs, and the Sarasota Academy of Christian Counselors. She holds a bachelor of science degree in public management from Florida A & M University, a master of arts in industrial relations from the University of Minnesota, and a Ph.D. in Christian counseling and psychology from Louisiana Baptist University. She has two children, daughter Grace and son Christian.

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Printed on Saturday, January 19, 2019