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Focusing on Diversity is the Right Thing – and Smart Thing – to Ensure Future Success, Says Health Sciences VP

Dr. Martin Luther King praying.

Jan. 11, 2012–Fostering diversity and a culture of inclusion should be a top priority if the University of Utah wants to continue as a national leader in teaching, research, technology commercialization, and community service, according to Vivian S. Lee, the university’s senior vice president for health sciences.

Lee, who joined the university’s administration last year from New York University, will offer the keynote address for the U’s 28th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration, which runs Jan. 13-19. She will speak on Wednesday, Jan. 18 at noon in the Olpin Student Union Ballroom.

Lee’s keynote remarks will focus on why she believes diversity and inclusion are so important in academic medicine. She’ll also share personal stories and experiences related to growing up in a Chinese-American family in Norman, Oklahoma.

“Developing and sustaining a culture of inclusion is the right thing, and the smart thing, to do in order to recruit and retain top faculty and students,” says Lee, who also serves as dean of the U’s School of Medicine, and CEO of University of Utah Health Care. “Faculty and students working on the most vexing scientific, social, and political challenges are attracted to universities that value diverse points of view and backgrounds. These are the types of scholars we want to recruit and retain in Utah – and the types of graduates we want to produce.”

The daughter of two Ph.D. educated educators, she graduated from Harvard-Radcliffe Colleges and was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, where she received a doctorate in medical engineering. She earned her medical degree at Harvard Medical School and also earned a M.B.A. at New York University’s Stern School of Business.

The theme for this year’s celebration week is “moving forward,” which was taken from King’s famous quote, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”  The celebration will highlight the contributions and legacy of King, as work continues toward the realization of equal opportunity for all.

This year will see the continuation of the popular rally and “marade” (combination march and parade) event, held on the Jan. 16 holiday to honor the late King and his fellow civil rights advocates. The rally will begin at 2:00 p.m. at East High School and will feature a keynote address by Pastor France A. Davis of Calvary Baptist Church. The marade will commence at 3:00 p.m. and progress on 1300 East to Presidents Circle at the University of Utah campus. An educational and historical cultural event will be held that afternoon at 5:30 p.m. in Kingsbury Hall.

Other events include the presentation of the play, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf,” produced by People Productions, Utah’s first African-American themed theater company. All events are free and open to the public. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration events include:

  • Friday, Jan. 13: Utah State MLK, Jr. Commission Luncheon featuring a keynote address by U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder.
    Sheraton Hotel, 150 W. 500 So. 11:00 am.  Suggested $10 donation or donations of cash, coats or canned food appreciated.
  • Saturday, Jan. 14: A Day of Service. Meet at 8:30 a.m. at the Lowell Bennion Community Service Center, Olpin Student Union Building, room 101 for a collaborative day of service with the Black Student Union and the Lowell Bennion Community Service Center. Service sites will include the Utah AIDS Foundation, First Step House, YWCA and Maliheh Free Clinic.
  • Monday, Jan. 16: Rally and Marade. Rally at 2:00 p.m., East High School, 840 South 1300 East, followed by a marade (march/parade) to the Kingsbury Hall, 1395 E. Presidents Circle at the university. The Marade is 1.3 miles. Participants are asked to dress for the  weather and for walking.
  • Monday, Jan. 16: Cultural Celebration. 5:30, Kingsbury Hall, 1395 East Presidents Circle. ‘Ailine’s Touch of Polynesia will present an educational, historical performance of authentic Polynesian and modern dance, drums and music.
  • Tuesday, Jan. 17: A Polynesian Dance Workshop. 9:00 a.m. to noon, Olpin Student Union Ballroom. Students in middle school join in dance instruction and learn about Polynesian history and culture. Limited capacity; pre-registration required by calling 801-581-5193.
  • Tuesday, Jan. 17: “Get on the Bus.” 6:00 p.m., Heritage Center, room 1B. A screening of the Spike Lee film chronicling the 1995 cross-country journey by bus of 12 Black men headed for the Million Man March.
  • Wednesday, Jan. 18: Keynote Address by Dr. Vivian Lee, senior vice president, University of Utah Health Sciences. Noon, Olpin Student Union Ballroom.
  • Wednesday, Jan. 18: “For Colored Girls who Have Considered Suicide when the Rainbow is Enuf,” 7:30 p.m. Olpin Student Union Ballroom.  People Productions, Utah’s first African-American themed theatre, presents Ntozake Shange’s black feminist classic.
  • Thursday, Jan. 19: “Celebrating Utah Firsts,” a Hinckley Institute of Politics Forum. 12:15 p.m., Orson Spencer Hall, Room 255. A panel of some of the first persons of color in Utah’s legal profession will share their stories of inspiration and triumph as they tell about their journeys to reach milestones in their careers.

For a complete list of University of Utah Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration events and sponsors, please visit