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Edinboro grants humanitarian awards to community activist, student leader

Posted on March 4th, 2019 at 11:05 AM
Edinboro grants humanitarian awards to community activist, student leader

Two individuals were recognized for their commitment to social justice and leadership during the 23rd annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award at Edinboro University. 

Sean L. Gibson, a 1995 graduate of Edinboro and the executive director of the Josh Gibson Foundation, was recognized Friday for his service to the community and dedication to Pittsburgh youth.

Erika DePalma, a sophomore speech-language pathology major and manager of the Edinboro University Phonathon Team, earned the third annual Dr. Joseph Laythe Award for her student leadership and commitment to fostering a respectful campus environment.

Interim President Michael J. Hannan presented the humanitarian awards during Friday’s luncheon and reaffirmed Edinboro’s commitment to diversity and inclusion through a welcoming institution. 

“At this luncheon, we pause to remind ourselves of our common humanity and the timeless importance of Dr. King’s message of respect, justice, and service to other,” Hannan said. “We come together to motivate and remind ourselves to convert his message into action.” 

Through providing access to recreation facilities and education to Pittsburgh youth, Gibson continues the undeniable legacy of his great-grandfather, Josh Gibson, a longtime Negro League baseball player who was known as the “Black Babe Ruth.” The Edinboro University graduate honors the achievements of his relative through the Josh Gibson Foundation, which was established as a nonprofit in 1994. 

Accepting the award on behalf of Gibson was Wayne Patterson, Edinboro’s director of Human Resources and Faculty Relations. 

“Through exposure to life skills coaching and educational support, the Josh Gibson Foundation has become an instrument for positive change in the Pittsburgh community,” said Allison Flynn, director of regional development at Edinboro University, who nominated Gibson for the award. “Sean has created a safe haven where our future legends can focus on preparing for college, successful careers and learning the game of baseball.” 

A graduate of Northwestern High School in Albion, Pa., DePalma participates in Greek life with the Iota Delta chapter of Delta Zeta and is a member of the Circle K Kiwanis organization in Edinboro. She also manages 21 students with the EU Phonathon Team and is a member of the Communications Science and Disorders Club. 

“She has a deep understanding of philanthropy and what giving back means and really demonstrates what a true leader is. She treats every single person with the utmost respect,” said Jessica Gray, director of Edinboro University’s annual fund. “She has also helped many students that were struggling in classes that needed some tutoring – just because she wanted to help.” 

The Dr. Laythe Award was created in honor of the well-loved Edinboro history professor who died in March 2016 after a courageous battle with cancer. 

His wife, Christine, and daughter, Lydia, attended the event to encourage the next generation of students to carry on the legacy of their family patriarch. 

“Dr. Laythe touched the hearts and souls of those he came into contact with,” said Pertrina Marrero, EU’s director of Diversity and Inclusion. “Graduates, students and colleagues have been inspired by his lectures, engaged by his charisma, and enriched personally and academically by his commitment to history and to justice.”

Edinboro University hosts the annual luncheon during Black History Month to help carry on Dr. King’s legacy by honoring individuals such as Gibson and DePalma for keeping the civil rights leader’s dream alive. 

Since 1997, more than 40 community leaders have been honored with the Edinboro University Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award to celebrate King’s legacy and to honor northwestern Pennsylvania citizens who embody King’s spirit, philosophy and teachings. The Dr. Joseph Laythe Award expands on that tradition by paying tribute to man who, like King, was deeply dedicated to justice.