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MLK Day celebration features NASA’s Ruth Jones

Aerospace engineer Ruth Jones will serve as the keynote for this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration.

SVSU, in collaboration with Delta College and the Saginaw, Bay Area and Midland Area community foundations, are presenting the event for the sixth time.

Unlike years’ past, the celebration will take place over two days, Tuesday, Jan. 21 and Wednesday, Jan 22 at 7 p.m. in the Malcolm Field Theatre.

On Wednesday, Jones will deliver her address, and the MLK Drum Major and the Regional Scholarship Program awards will be
presented. The MLK Drum Major award is given to outstanding community members, and Bay region students are given a scholarship for their dedication to the community.

Jones, the branch chief for Industrial Safety Branch at the NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, will deliver the keynote in a conversational style.

Jones was the first woman to earn a bachelor’s degree in physics from University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff in 1994, said Mamie Thorns, special assistant to the president for Diversity Programs.

“She’s a trailblazer,” Thorns said. “She was also the second woman to earn a Ph.D. in physics in the state of Alabama.”

Thorns said this year’s celebration will differ from last year’s, as it places an emphasis on the importance of STEM.

As such, on Tuesday, Jan. 21, SVSU will also be presenting the film “Hidden Figures,” which recounts the work of NASA’s Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson.

After the film, attendees will be able to engage in conversation and engage in a question and answer session with Jones.

Students who participate in the Chief Science Officer programs at area middle and high schools were invited to meet Jones as part of the Tuesday segment. They will be able to ask questions and hear about her journey.

The event is free to the public.

“We are sharing Dr. King’s dreams,” Thorns said.

Melissa Vennix
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