A UCM alumnus who has led multiple national efforts in diversity and multiculturalism will be the keynote speaker for the Freedom Scholarship Dinner.
Robert N. Page Jr. marks the fourth consecutive alumni member to be selected by the MLK Committee as the featured speaker of the dinner which is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Elliott Student Union Ballroom.
The title of Page’s speech is “Living and Leaving a Legacy” and addresses King’s values of education, being a strong member of society and how King’s message inspired him.
“I’ll be talking about Dr. King’s commitment to education and how that inspired me to navigate through a bachelor’s and master’s degree at UCM,” Page said. “Trying to be a productive citizen, we all have things we need to work on, but I think my successes have come because of inspiration, motivation and the perspective on education that Dr. King had.”
Page’s path to being named the dinner’s keynote speaker began at a conference where he expressed interest in being considered.
“I attended a conference that Dr. Love was at and she asked if I knew of any keynote speakers,” Page said. “So I told her I would be interested as a former alum. I submitted my proposal in October and found out I was chosen in late November.”
Page had attended the dinner on multiple occasions in the past through his friendship with Chuck Ambrose, former university president. He said this is a great way to make a difference.
“It is an opportunity for me to give back,” he said. “Part of the agreement we have is that any honorarium proceeds would go back to the Freedom Scholarship. It’s just a way for me to contribute to my knowledge of Martin Luther King and what his legacy has meant to me as a UCM alum.”
Page attended UCM in the 1980s, earning both his bachelor’s in communication and master’s in counseling. Since graduating from UCM, Page has worked in postsecondary education for more than 30 years, making stops at Arizona State University, the University of Kansas and Metropolitan Community College – Kansas City.
While at UCM, Page said there were few programs or initiatives promoting inclusivity, so he found inspiration through individuals like Greg Roberts, former dean of students.
“At the time, navigating UCM as a young multiracial student was challenging and he (Roberts) was kind of like a Dr. King figure in many ways,” Page said. “He supported me intrinsically to do better and motivated me, which helped because I wasn’t challenged as much academically as much as personally, being a city kid out of St. Louis.”
In addition to Page’s work in postsecondary education, he has been involved in many national projects to promote inclusivity and diversity. His most notable work is in the creation of the Tunnel of Oppression, a demonstration that shines light on the inequality that still exists in society. The tunnel is demonstrated on the UCM campus during Unity Week as well as on numerous other campuses across the country.
Page said his work at KU and MCC focuses on equity and inclusion.
“Dr. King, in a very early part of my life, helped set that pathway for me to look at what I can do to make the world a more inclusive place,” Page said. “Diversity is the mantra of everything I do and it’s in large part because of Dr. King’s legacy.”
More specifically, Page’s work at MCC as the regional leader for inclusivity initiatives entailed creating work environments that are inclusive and support students’ academic success.
“Any person doing work in diversity should be working to foster an environment or climate that promotes academic success and a community of appreciation, understanding, respect and stability,” Page said.
Ed Wirthwein, chair of the MLK Committee, said the selection process entails gathering a list of keynote recommendations, followed by a final vote to decide who will be the speaker.
“We have a committee of 12 UCM faculty, staff and students as well as two community members,” he said. “We start our meetings when we return to campus in the fall. We brainstorm alumni who we feel would be good speakers for this event. We get four to five names and we vote as a committee. The ones who are not selected we keep for future years.”
Page lives in Olathe, Kansas, and has recently began working on his doctoral program in education, leadership and policy at KU.