Alum recalls meeting young MLK on campus

University continues to honor Dr. King with celebration

Photo/Brandeis Archives

Bernie Saklad '52, second from right, met Martin Luther King, Jr., on one of the activist's several visits to campus.

Several years after graduating with Brandeis’ first class, Bernie Saklad ’52 found himself back in Usen Castle.

By then a student at Suffolk Law and known among peers as a wordsmith, he was recruited by the Brandeis Boston Alumni Association chapter to draft a commendation honoring another local student.

It was on that evening that Saklad remembers shaking hands and talking with the honoree – a doctoral candidate in theology at Boston University: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Though he still recalls the evening more than a half-century later, “You would never know in a million years what he would become,” Saklad says. “He was so young and unassuming. He spoke a little bit about the work that he was trying to do, but he didn’t elaborate.”

He estimates 30 or 40 alumni gathered in a function room in the Castle for an evening of socializing, and general discussions of Brandeis’ mission of social justice.

Saklad says like so many others who admired King’s work, he was shocked and saddened by his assassination.

“By that time he was world-famous,” Saklad says. “When he was at our school, he was just starting to gain attention. People were starting to look at him like someone who may be special down the road.”

Saklad notes that King wasn’t yet 30 years old, but had already done significant work to elevate the position of blacks in the United States.

At Brandeis this year, the campus will celebrate King’s life and work with the 9th-annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial: “For the Love of a Dream!” The event will be held on Jan. 20 at 6:30 p.m. in the Shapiro Campus Center Theater.

Professor Chad Williams, chairman of the African and Afro-American Studies Department will host the celebration, with a keynote address from Hubert and Jane Sapp, musicians, freedom activists and assistant to King.

The evening will also include talks or performances by scholar-motivator and social change agent Jermaine Hamilton; scholar-songbird Erica Barnett; scholar-singer-songwriter-athlete and Brandeis Bridge Fellow Makalani Mak; scholar-artists and celebrated dance juggernauts Kaos Kids; and Emmy Award-winning Sean Fielder and the Boston Tap Company.

The event is sponsored by MLK and Friends, the Dean of Students and Student Affairs and the Department of African and Afro-American Studies.

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Interfaith Service

Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Interfaith Service will be held Monday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Hosted by the Waltham Group and the Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries, Brandeis will welcome more than 50 middle and high school students to campus from Steps to Success in Brookline. Participants will learn about Dr. King’s legacy and will package more than 10,000 meals for the homeless that will be delivered to food shelters in Greater Boston. For more information, contact Rev. Matt Carriker.

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Categories: Alumni, Humanities and Social Sciences, Student Life

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