Dawn Bennett-Alexander remembers seeing Martin Luther King Jr. during her childhood.

"I was at the [1963] March on Washington as a 12 year old," the associate professor of employment law and legal studies wrote in an e-mail. "My dad was a minister and pastor who supported Dr. King's position."

King's message of equality had a profound impact during an era of racial segregation in America, she said.

"With his message and the help of millions of people who realized the truth of it, he took not only the country to a new place as regards to race, but he totally changed the expectations that we have now come to take for granted as to how people should be treated," Bennett-Alexander said.

Today, 40 years after King's death, many in the University community continue to be influenced by his legacy. On April 4, 1968, the 39-year-old leader was assassinated on his motel balcony in Memphis, Tenn.

"Even though I was in junior high school when he was assassinated, I was an activist at my high school and college and it was based a lot on Dr. King's philosophy," Cheryl Dozier, associate provost for the Office of Institutional Diversity, wrote in an e-mail.

"I learned that through non-violent protest and through unity among the races, ethnic and religious groups that we as a community could have an impact on change," she said.

Born and raised in Atlanta, King became a principal leader in the 1960s Civil Rights movement for his messages of nonviolence and racial equality. Known as an orator, he delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech during the 1963 March on Washington. In 1964, he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his activism.

"Dr. King led efforts to abolish the apartheid-like system in America and create a new democracy, which is enduring because at its foundation is love for all humankind," Maurice Daniels, dean of the School of Social Work, wrote in an e-mail.

"Anytime I think of role models, I think of him," Cleveland Piggott, a sophomore from Suwanee, said. "Though I don't think about it all the time, my being at [the University], having an education and the diversity of friendships I have are a result of Dr. King's legacy and the struggle of civil rights in that generation."

Many blacks credit King in their ability to work at and attend the University.

"Most, if not all, Americans and people around the globe have been affected by Dr. King's legacy," Daniels said. "Most of the opportunities that I have access to today are, in large measure, due to Dr. King and other 20th century freedom fighters, including my opportunity to serve as dean."

"Our institution has continued to try to live out the true meaning of diversity through the development of the Office of Institutional Diversity and other offices and departments over the years and the increase of black faculty, students and staff," Dozier said.

King's ability to merge Christian ideals and American democracy make his message appealing to Americans, Derrick Alridge, director of the Institute of African American Studies, wrote in an e-mail.

"Despite his critiques of American society and his calls for America to live up to its grand proclamations of equality, King is considered one of America's greatest patriots," Alridge said.

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