Metro State president addresses education at Martin Luther King Jr. Marade
Denver - Metropolitan State College of Denver President Stephen Jordan was the keynote speaker at the rally immediately following Denver's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Marade (march and parade) at the Civic Center. He joined a host of dignitaries to speak at the four-hour celebration, including Denver Mayor John W. Hickenlooper, former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar and Gov. Bill Ritter.
In below-freezing temperatures, they joined thousands of marchers in the two-mile parade route from the "I Have a Dream" monument at City Park to the Civic Center downtown. Jordan is one of only two college presidents to address Marade participants in its 24-year history.
In his speech, Jordan recognized three local legendary leaders, including the Honorable Peter C. Groff, who this past month became the first African American state senate president in Colorado history and only the third in U.S. history; Richard T. Castro an educational and civil rights activist who was one of Colorado's true champions of disenfranchised communities; and Rachel B. Noel, who became the first African American elected to the Denver school board and the first African American woman to hold an elected office in Colorado. Metro State has established two visiting professorships under the names of Castro (1997) and Noel (1981) to recognize their role in the Civil Rights Movement. To learn more about them visit
Jordan focused on education, something that King, a Nobel Peace Prize, winner often referred to as the great equalizer. "Education serves as a bridge between despair and hope. It allows everyone, regardless of their background, to achieve on the basis of merit. We have made great strides in accessing education since the days of 'separate but equal,' but we still have a long way to go."
The president of the most diverse college in the state went on to explain a disturbing paradox in Colorado. "We currently rank in the top five per capita for college-degree holders, yet we're importing our college graduates. The state ranks near the bottom in the number of low-income students and those from underrepresented backgrounds who go to college."
Jordan also noted a positive development across the nation. "Ethnic diversity has become the holy grail of colleges and universities; everyone is trying to get it. A high-achieving high school student of color is the most sought-after demographic in the college applicant pool. And our more prestigious schools are working to increase their matriculation rates of these students."
Conversely, he points to those students who are being left behind. "But what about the conventional student of color who graduates from an urban high school and whose achievements are more modest? These are the students ? place-bound, often of limited economic status and whose preparation for college is less rigorous ? who are largely served by our public urban institutions."
Once students are in college, there is yet another obstacle, he said. "Many students from economically challenged backgrounds lack college-going family precedent or role models. It is critical that these students have access to full-time faculty of the same ethnic background to serve as peer mentors, helping them navigate the transition from high school to college."
To meet this effort, Metro State in the last three years, has increased tenured and tenure-track faculty of color at Metro State by 58 percent, with African American faculty increasing by 92 percent and Latino faculty by 64 percent.
History: Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn. The January celebrations mark his birth. He was born Jan. 15, 1929. King's "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, D.C., in 1963 helped to galvanize the Civil Rights Movement. As a Colorado legislator in 1974, Mayor Webb introduced a bill calling for adoption of a state holiday to recognize the slain civil rights leader. It failed. Attempts by Webb in 1975 and 1976 also came up empty. Webb's wife, Wilma, took up the cause years later when she was a legislator. The bill passed in 1984.