Diversity and community

Two Columbia educators are honored for
their commitment to community betterment
Friday, January 16, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:44 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

George Frissell, a teacher of classical ideas and world religions at Hickman High School, had an “excused absence” from proctoring the beginning his own exam. His excuse: He was one of several people nominated for the Columbia Values Diversity Award.

At Thursday’s breakfast, Frissell and Clyde Ruffin, a professor at MU’s Department of Theatre and pastor at Second Baptist Church, were presented the 2004 Columbia Values Diversity Award for individuals.

State Farm Insurance was also honored with the award for organizations. George Brooks and Muriel Battle were honored with posthumous awards.

Frissell said he missed only 15 minutes of the exam and was able to see his students finish. After the test, Frissell said students congratulated him.

He said he tries to encourage religious tolerance in his classes by talking about religion as part of culture. Frissell, 52, has taught for 30 years and chairs a multicultural committee to integrate history and culture into classrooms. He also works with students outside the classroom and founded the Speak Your Mind Forum and the Hickman chapter of Amnesty International.

“Frissell works with the high school students and does phenomenal work with them,” said Georgalu Swoboda, event coordinator and director at Big Brothers, Big Sisters.

After the Columbia Values Diversity Celebration, Frissell said to Ruffin, “It is a bigger honor to be there with you.”

Ruffin, 51, worked as the creative director for Columbia Values Diversity Celebration from 1998 to 2003. He has also worked in theater for more than 30 years, with MU for 27 years as a drama professor and as an associate professor in black studies.

“Awards help us appreciate people that do good works all throughout the year,” Swoboda said.

About 1,100 members of the community attended the breakfast. Mary Jo Herde, special projects coordinator with Asian Affairs at MU, said she comes to almost all the breakfasts. She enjoys the sense of community as well as the time to honor diversity.

“The program is very inspirational,” Herde said. “It reminds me of the complexity of our community.”

Shari Taylor, an employee in public affairs at State Farm, took time to remember Martin Luther King Jr.’s message.

“It is good to see the Columbia community come together here embracing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision and keeping his dream alive,” Taylor said.

Mayor Darwin Hindman said the community donated more than $95,000 for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and Battle Park through a fundraising campaign orchestrated by the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Restoration Project Committee and the New Century Fund.

The community will also receive $100,000 from the Save America’s Treasures program with work completed by Sen. Kit Bond, who also spoke and distributed awards. The money raised will fix water damage on the closed memorial. The remaining money will serve as endowment for future restoration projects.

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