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Clement Price Endows A Legacy Of Knowledge

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(NEWARK, N.J., MARCH 17,  2010) – A professor’s legacy usually centers on students whose lives were touched and the scholarship left for future generations.  Clement Price will leave those in abundance, as well as a more tangible legacy: the Clement A. Price Endowment for the Humanities, at the campus where he has taught since 1969, Rutgers University in Newark.

Price, who is Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor of History and founding director of the Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience  (IECME), has given the university a $100,000 gift to establish the endowment, which will ensure the continuation of the Marion Thompson Wright Lectures Series (MTW) that he co-established 30 years ago with historian Giles R. Wright of the New Jersey Historical Commission.  The MTW lecture series evolved from their commitment to public scholarship, civic engagement and lifelong learning.  Price was similarly motivated to found the IECME, an interdisciplinary academic program that reaches the greater Newark community through lectures, film, performances, exhibitions, and partnerships with civic and philanthropic institutions.

“Since I was a young professor, I have kept the tradition, that is part of my roots as an African-American, of giving back to the community through civic engagement,” says Price, a resident of Newark. The MTW lecture and the Institute are just two of the many ways he has done just that, but the endowment will guarantee that the MTW series will “continue in perpetuity,” he explains.

Price’s endowment is seen as the latest example of Price’s generosity of spirit and enrichment of his campus and community. “This gift is everything that makes Clem Price such a treasure: generous, focused on history, connected to students and the public, and determined to touch the future in a positive way,” observes Rutgers President Richard L. McCormick.   “Throughout his remarkable academic career, Clement Price has used his profound knowledge of history to enable citizens of all backgrounds to understand the past so that they can address the contemporary needs of his beloved city of Newark, of New Jersey and of our nation,” notes Steven J. Diner, chancellor, Rutgers University, Newark.  “That he should now also contribute so generously, to create an endowment that will help perpetuate this work in the future, is extraordinary beyond belief. I am awed and humbled by all he has done for our university and our community. “

Price notes that he played a leadership role, a few years ago, in the “We Believe in Rutgers” campaign that helped raise donations from faculty and staff for Rutgers.  He credits this involvement with also raising his awareness of his “higher aspirations” towards Rutgers and his legacy, he explains. 

Rather than wait for retirement, Price made the gift this year to honor the memories of two loved ones, as well as to honor the 30th anniversary of the lecture series.  Price lost his mother, Anna Christine Spann Price, on Oct. 10, and his beloved friend Giles Wright, with whom he co-founded the MTW series, passed away Feb. 10, 2009.  “The timing was right” for the gift, says Price, since perpetuating the MTW series indirectly honors both his mother and Wright for their enduring influences on his life and career.

The annual MTW lecture series is the oldest, largest and most prestigious Black History Month event in the state, drawing thousands of people over the decades to listen and learn. The series also has attracted some of the nation’s foremost scholars and humanists who are experts in the field of African and African American history and culture, including Annette Gordon-Reed, Eric Foner, Sterling Stuckey, Spencer Crew, and James Oliver Horton; for other speakers and topics see   http://ethnicity.rutgers.edu/mtw/

Price’s public service includes serving on President Obama’s transition team, chairing the team for the National Endowment for the Humanities.  His service to the people of New Jersey is extensive:  He is a trustee of the Urban Libraries Council and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, president of the Newark Public Schools Foundation, and a member of the Scholarly Advisory Committee to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution. He is the most senior member of the Board of Trustees of the Newark Public Library and serves on the Steering Committee of the Newark Black Film Festival.  In April 2008, he became a member of The New Jersey State Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights.  At the request of New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, Price chaired the Newark Public Schools Superintendent Search Committee during the spring of 2008. Price serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship and is on the advisory council for the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

As a leading public intellectual, Price has been the recipient of many awards for academic and community service.  He was named New Jersey Professor of the Year by The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) in 1999 and in 2006, he was inducted into the Rutgers University Hall of Distinguished Alumni. He, along with his wife, Mary Sue Sweeney Price, director of The Newark Museum, received the 2006 Ryan Award for Commitment to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.  The award-winning documentary film, The Once and Future Newark, hosted by Price, has been broadcast frequently on PBS.  Most recently Essex County honored Price with its Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award. 

Price is pleased that during his decades in Newark he has seen his faculty colleagues grow more involved in public service to the greater Newark community and in the civic life of the city.  He is particularly encouraged by Rutgers-Newark’s increasingly active role in the city. “My long tenure on the faculty here, and my deep engagement with the city, has been encouraged by very dear and distinguished University officials, for which I am most grateful. In a sense, the endowment acknowledges their leadership as well.”

Price received his B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Bridgeport and the Ph.D. from Rutgers University.

For more information, please contact Carla Capizzi, 973/353-5263, or email: capizzi@rutgers.edu.