New York University honored Professor Bryan Stevenson, head of the Equal Justice and Defender Clinic, with a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Faculty Award on February 5 during the university’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Week. Stevenson was one of five NYU faculty across the university to receive the award, which recognizes teaching excellence, leadership, social justice work, and community-building in King’s spirit.
Stevenson is founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a nonprofit law organization focused on social justice and human rights. In his most recent argument before the Supreme Court in March 2012, he persuaded the justices of the unconstitutionality of mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles convicted of murder. Earlier that month, he delivered a rousing TED talk about his legal defense work that raised a million dollars for EJI within 24 hours and, according to TED founder Chris Anderson, prompted “one of the longest and loudest standing ovations in TED’s history.”
Awardees are nominated by students. “I challenge you to watch his TED talk and not feel profoundly moved and want to get up and change the world,” read one of Stevenson’s nominations. “He inspires countless people to care about issues of race and the ways in which we treat the most vulnerable in society.”
While Stevenson could not accept the award in person, he appeared via video to express his gratitude for the honor and its accompanying $2,500 research stipend. “Your recognition, your respect, your appreciation means the world to me,” he said. “The legacy of Dr. King is a legacy that ought to inspire all of us. Living in Montgomery, Alabama, working not far from his historic church where he did so much, energizes and motivates me each day.”
Previous NYU Law winners of the faculty award include Alina Das ’05, Kim Taylor-Thompson, and Anthony Thompson. In 2006 Stevenson won NYU’s first annual Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award, as well as the university’s Distinguished Teaching Award.
Posted on February 12, 2014