DEATH IN FAMILY PROMPTS ROGER WILKINS TO CANCEL AQUINAS COLLEGE COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS - May 8, 2003
May 8, 2003 - Civil rights activist and noted author Roger Wilkins has canceled his commencement address to the graduates of Aquinas College on Saturday, May 10, 2003, due to the death of his mother-in-law. Wilkins, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, informed College officials late Thursday afternoon of his decision not to appear for this weekend's ceremony scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.
From his home in Washington, D.C., Wilkins stated:
"I considered the invitation to address the graduates at Aquinas College to be a great honor because, as a native of Grand Rapids, I have known of Aquinas since I was a boy and respected it. I had been looking forward to this event with great pleasure. It's only the grief over the death of my mother-in-law, the need to support my wife and her sister and to do the things necessary to provide an appropriate farewell to a mother-in-law that I loved and esteemed that prevents me from being with the Aquinas graduates at this time."
Wilkins' mother-in-law, Grayce Wood King, 85, a native of Norfolk, Virginia, lived out the last few years of her life in Silver Spring, Maryland. For many years, Mrs. King had been an employee in the Norfolk city government and was the first black person to hold a number of city administrative positions there. She has two daughters, including Wilkins' wife, Patricia King, who is a Carmack Waterhouse professor of law, medicine and public policy at Georgetown University Law Center where she has been on the faculty for three decades.
President Harry J. Knopke expressed condolences on behalf of the Aquinas College community to Wilkins and his family. Knopke said Saturday's commencement ceremonies will go on as planned with the focus, as always, on the graduates.
"It is our hope that the joy of commencement for graduates and their families will characterize the day's events," stated President Knopke.
Aquinas is graduating its largest class ever with 570 receiving degrees. The ceremonies will begin at 2 p.m. in the campus Field House.
Consistently ranked one of the top liberal arts colleges in the Midwest by U.S. News and World Report, Aquinas College offers an approach to learning and living that teaches students unlimited ways of seeing the world. Founded in 1886 by the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids, the College's Dominican tradition of working, service and lifelong learning remains alive today in a diverse student body. Students from more than 20 states and 12 foreign countries are enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs. Within six months of graduation, nearly all graduates are in full-time jobs, enrolled in professional schools of law, medicine, or dentistry, or in a master or doctoral program.