UofSC honors social justice leaders

A University of South Carolina student, faculty and staff member who exemplify Martin Luther King Jr.’s commitment to service, equality and social justice were honored at the university’s annual MLK commemorative breakfast Jan. 13.

The 2017 Social Justice Awards were presented to Bobby Gist, executive assistant to the president for Equal Opportunity Programs; Ed Madden, English professor and director of the women’s and gender studies program; and Jonathan Keefe, a senior psychology major and the director of the Gamecock Pantry.

The recipients were nominated by their peers for exemplifying King’s philosophies through their actions and achievements on campus. We asked the three winners what drew them to develop a passion for social justice.

Bobby Gist

Recognized as a dedicated servant and humanitarian by his peers, Gist is an advocate for the underprivileged and underrepresented. Throughout his career, Gist has coordinated events that help raise money for student scholarships, foster civic engagement and shed light on discrimination to organizations across the state of South Carolina.

 “I have always worked to promote equality and justice for all people in my life,” Gist said. “As a long-term supporter of justice and equality for all, I was raised by a family that always trained me to support the concept that in this country and in this world, that all lives matter, and we must promote and defend social justice for all people. I will always support unity and justice for all.”

Ed Madden

As director of the women’s and gender studies program, Madden works to help the university community understand the concerns of the LGBTQ community. He is recognized by his colleagues and students as a passionate promoter of equality, education and social justice.

“I grew up in the rural fundamentalist South—among people who were openly racist, sexist and homophobic,” Madden said. “I do think that my growing up gay in a hostile environment has made me more willing to understand the stories of others who experience loss, disempowerment and prejudice, and who have experienced social, political and personal hostility.  I think facing hatred and rejection both political and personal makes me more willing to listen to others’ experiences of discrimination and more determined to fight. I cannot change my sexuality, but I can try to change the world around me. I cannot change the past, but I hope to help shape a different future.”

Jonathan Keefe

Keefe is director of the student-led Gamecock Pantry, which provides food for students in need. As one of the pantry’s founding members, Keefe empowers his fellow students and the food pantry volunteers to use their time in college to give back to their communities.

“I feel that I've gotten just as much out of the pantry as I have put in,” Keefe said. “Meeting volunteers and clients and getting to know them is really my favorite part, and I've gained a better understanding of people from different communities by speaking with them along the way. Overall, I hope that students realize that they have a responsibility to help solve the problems in their community. You get out what you put in, and I'm incredibly appreciative of the opportunity I've had to be the director of Gamecock Pantry.”


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