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STARKVILLE, Miss.–Character, commitment and leadership defined Martin Luther King Jr. as a civil rights trailblazer, and Mississippi State’s 2013 MLK Jr. Unity Breakfast will feature a student recognized for demonstrating those same qualities.

Senior Donald M. “Field” Brown of Vicksburg, the university’s recently named Rhodes Scholar, will be keynote speaker Monday [Jan 20] for the 20th annual local celebration of MLK’s life and achievements. The day also is a national holiday established in 1983 by Congress as a memorial to the Baptist minister, humanitarian and activist who was assassinated in 1968 in Memphis, Tenn.

Free and open to all, the MSU program begins at 7 a.m. in Colvard Student Union’s Bill Foster Ballroom. The meal will be followed by the formal program at 8 a.m., and all activities should conclude by 9 a.m.

Also scheduled are remarks by MSU President Mark E. Keenum, announcement of local high school MLK essay contest winners and a performance by the campus Black Voices Choir.

Brown, an English and philosophy double-major, is one of 32 U.S. residents selected this year for the prestigious international scholarship. As a 2010 Vicksburg High School graduate and the son of Willie and Cynthia Brown, he was the Magnolia State’s only Rhodes Scholar selection for 2013.

Scholars are chosen based on a demonstrated commitment to others and the common good, as well as their scholarly achievements and leadership potential.

Brown has credited his time at MSU with giving him the best possible undergraduate experience.

“I couldn’t be in a better position if I had gone anywhere else; that’s all you can ask from a college education,” he said.

After graduation, Brown will be pursuing a graduate degree at Oxford University in England. He said he considers the opportunity to walk the halls of one of the world’s top institutions of higher learning to be both a thrilling and life-changing experience.

Brown plans to study both American literature and modern English literature, particularly how McCarthyism and Cold War scare tactics affected which books of the period were promoted — particularly post-World War II African-American literature.

In a senior thesis at MSU focusing on African-American writer Ralph Ellison (1914-94), Brown is exploring how a politically radical novelist like Ellison was forced to mute his political ideas to become visible and respected.

After graduating third in his class at Vicksburg High School, Brown enrolled in MSU’s Shackouls Honors College. While a student, he has co-founded “The Streetcar,” the first and only creative arts journal on campus, and served as president of the Philosophy and Religion Club. He also has been a member of the Roadrunners student recruiting team and a participant in intramural sports activities.

Following conclusion of this year’s unity breakfast, the university’s Maroon Volunteer Center will sponsor an MLK Day of Service. Participants will be working between 1:45-5 p.m. to complete a service project at the Adaton-Self Creek Volunteer Fire Department, a unit of the Oktibbeha County volunteer fire service located at 1688 County Lake Rd. For more information, visit http://mvc.msstate.edu.

For more information about the breakfast, call 662-325-2493 or email Tommy Stevenson, chief diversity officer and director of the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, at tstevenson@oidi.msstate.edu, or office associate Latoya Bishop at lbishop@oidi.msstate.edu.

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