Civil Rights Activist, Scientist take podiums for MLK Celebration

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Myrlie Evers-Williams and Warren M. Washington will be keynote speakers

EVANSTON, IL – Civil rights activist and author Myrlie Evers-Williams and internationally recognized atmospheric scientist and climate researcher Warren M. Washington will be the featured speakers at Northwestern University’s commemoration of the life and legacy of the late civil and human rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

The weeklong 2014 celebration will begin Jan. 20. Northwestern has suspended classes Monday, Jan. 20, on the Evanston and Chicago campuses for a University-wide, full-day observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. That evening Washington will speak at the Alpha Phi Alpha Candlelight Vigil at Alice Millar Chapel. The week of campus celebrations will conclude Jan. 27 with an evening program at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall featuring a keynote address by Evers-Williams and music and performances from Northwestern student groups. All events are free and open to the public.

Evers-Williams, the widow of slain Mississippi civil rights activist Medgar Evers, is the founder of the Medgar & Myrlie Evers Institute, an organization that promotes education, training and economic development.

Washington shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with scientific colleagues from around the world who were involved in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment, which provided greater knowledge about man-made climate change. Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore Jr. also shared the prize.


• Washington will speak at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 20, at the Alpha Phi Alpha Candlelight Vigil at Alice Millar Chapel, 1870 Sheridan Road.

• Evers-Williams will be the keynote speaker at the 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 27, observance at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Drive. Since there will be no keynote program on the Chicago campus this year, everyone is invited to attend the Evanston campus keynote event. Tickets are not required. Seating will be on a first-come, first-seated basis. Doors will open 45 minutes prior to the start of the event.

Other Evanston campus events will include a Jan. 20 staged reading of “Mogadishu,” by British playwright Vivienne Franzmann, at the Josephine Louis Theater, that dramatizes the experience of a white woman who teaches in a tough London secondary school; a Jan. 20 candlelight vigil featuring Washington’s talk; a Jan. 22 panel discussion on civil rights and social justice; a Jan. 23 film screening of “King: A Filmed Record,” a documentary on King’s rise from regional activist to world-renowned civil rights leader; a Jan. 24 Harambee, a Swahili-style get-together with free food, student performances and the presentation of this year’s Gardner/Exum Scholarship winners; and a Jan. 27 keynote program featuring Evers-Williams’ talk.


Plans for Chicago campus events are under way. For up-to-date information visit,


Following the 1963 murder of her husband, Evers-Williams has emerged as a pivotal figure in the civil rights movement. For more than three decades, she has fought to carry on her late husband’s legacy, never relenting in her determination to change the face of race relations in America. She has become a symbol of courage and perseverance, steadfast in her march towards social justice by exposing new generations of students to the cause for which her husband died.

Evers-Williams was the first female chairperson to lead the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Her leadership rejuvenated the agency, helping ensure its relevance for generations to come. She also was instrumental in launching “Youth for Unity,” a diversity education program designed to fight injustice and intolerance.

In 1967, she co-wrote a book with William Peters about her husband, “For Us, the Living.” In 1999, she published her memoir “Watch Me Fly: What I Learned on the Way to Becoming the Woman I Was Meant to Be,” which charts her journey from being the wife of an activist to becoming a community leader in her own right. In 2005, she served as editor of “The Autobiography of Medgar Evers: A Hero’s Life and Legacy Revealed Through His Writings, Letters, and Speeches,” a book intended to preserve the memory of her first husband.

For more information on this speaker visit


Washington is a senior scientist and chief scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) Cooperative Agreement at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in the Climate Change Research Section.  He has published close to 200 papers in professional journals, garnered dozens of national and international awards and served as a science advisor to former presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

A specialist in computer modeling of Earth’s climate, Washington became one of the first developers of groundbreaking atmospheric computer models in collaboration with Akira Kasahara when he came to NCAR in the early 1960s. These models, which use fundamental laws of physics to predict future states of the atmosphere, have helped scientists understand climate change. As his research developed, Washington worked to incorporate the oceans and sea ice into climate models. Such models now include components that depict surface hydrology and vegetation as well as the atmosphere, oceans and sea ice.

An introduction to “Three-Dimensional Climate Modeling,” written by Washington and Claire Parkinson in 1986 and updated in 2005, is a standard reference in the field.

Washington’s past research involved using the Parallel Climate Model (PCM). His current research involves using the Community Earth System Model (CESM) to study the impacts of climate change in the 21st century. Both models were used extensively in the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment, for which NCAR scientists, including Washington and colleagues around the world, shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

For more information on these and other Northwestern events commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. visit in Evanston or in Chicago. Additional information will be announced at a later date.


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