MLK Jr. award recipients announced

PULLMAN, Wash.—A WSU Puyallup event planner, a WSU Pullman graduate student and the WSU Health Advocates have been selected to receive WSU Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Awards.

WSU honors a select group of individuals and organizations annually with the Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Award for their work in promoting equity and diversity.

This year’s recipients will be recognized during WSU’s Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 15 in the Compton Union Building Jr. Ballroom.


Betsy Fradd, a media relations and event planning specialist at the WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center, was selected to receive the award in the WSU staff category.  Fradd led her WSU Extension 4-H Youth Development colleagues in organizing a pajama and book drive to help underserved children in Puyallup, Wash.

The drive held last October resulted in the gathering of over 300 books and new pajamas for The Helping Hand House in Puyallup.  It serves 100 children each month.  “This program provided new pajamas and books to kids who often wear their clothes to bed or rarely get a chance to have their own new books,” said Fradd.

“It is gratifying to know that many local at-risk youth are warmer this winter due to the efforts of all those who participated in the Pajama Program drive,” said WSU Extension 4-H Youth Development Director Pat BoyEs.  BoyEs nominated Fradd for the Award.


Gail Gleason, a Ph.D. candidate in WSU’s College of Education and a learning specialist for the Athletic Resource Center, was selected to receive the award in the student category.  Gleason is well remembered in the Pullman community working alongside her son Steve, a WSU graduate and former WSU football star, on the Backpacks for Hope project.

In collaboration with many WSU departments and organizations including the Katrina Relief Task Force, WSU Foundation, WSU Athletics and the University Recreation Center, the Gleasons collected almost 8,000 backpacks in the State of Washington and more in other areas of the country.  They also received over $4,000 in cash donations, books, stuffed animals and school supplies.  It all went to help children displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

Gleason’s nominator, Vernette Doty, said Gleason continues to work closely with New Orleans schools and created a non-profit organization called Teacher Connection of Professional Development.  This organization matches teachers in New Orleans schools with Washington State teachers who serve as mentors as they work through their unique circumstances.

“These teachers come from schools in New Orleans that are in the process of rebuilding school climate, school protocol and struggling to meet national academic standards,” said Doty.

WSU staff member John Miller nominated the WSU Health Advocates group for the Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Award for its tireless work promoting and maintaining the wellbeing, health and safety of WSU students and the community.

Bergley & Turnbull

The Health Advocates coordinated the display of the AIDS Quilt on the Pullman campus last year.  In addition the group facilitated two productions of the Vagina Monologues attended by over 600 people.  Nearly $5,000 was raised to support local and international programming to prevent violence against women and girls.  Health Advocate participants conduct numerous outreach events annually educating thousands of people about HIV AIDS, drug and alcohol abuse and sexual assault.

“The mission of the Health Advocates is to create and sustain a safe and healthy campus community in which students feel secure from threat, danger or injury and supported in making healthy lifestyle choices,” said Miller.  WSU Health and Wellness employees Cathy Bergley and Marsha Turnbull advise the Health Advocates.

The number of nominations received for the Distinguished Service Award increased significantly this year.  “The quality of the nominations also improved,” said Felicia Gaskins, associate vice president for the Division of Student Affairs, Equity and Diversity.  “There are so many people and organizations doing great things in our community to support the principals taught by Dr. King and this year’s award recipients are wonderful examples for all of us to emulate.” 

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