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President Haas to receive Urban League award

  • man at podium on stage

Posted on January 17, 2019

President Thomas J. Haas will be among the recipients of the Paul I. Phillips Presidential Legacy Award presented by the Urban League of West Michigan on January 21, the national holiday recognizing the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The award is named for Phillips, who was the first African American to be elected to Grand Rapids City Commission (1951) and the Grand Rapids Public Schools Board of Education (1962-1970). Phillips also served on Grand Valley's Board of Trustees, appointed by Gov. William Milliken, and received an honorary doctorate from Grand Valley in 1972. He died in 1976.

Teresa Weatherall Neal, GRPS superintendent, and Tina Freese Decker, Spectrum Health president and CEO, are the other legacy award recipients.

Haas said it is an honor to receive an award named for Phillips, adding those who knew Phillips said he "inspired people to work practically to get a job done." President Emeritus Arend D. Lubbers once said, “If more people of all races had Paul Phillips’ attitudes, our society would enter a new era of freedom and prosperity.” 

The Urban League presents the award to unsung heroes who, like Phillips, dedicate their lives in service to others.

"There are many unsung heroes who are right here with me helping the university, this community and indeed this world get ever closer to the ideal that Paul Phillips and Rev. King worked tirelessly to create," Haas said.

Grand Valley will commemorate King's legacy with a week of events beginning Monday, January 21. Visit for details.