Cedar Rapids community leader Dr. Percy Harris to be honored at Coe commencement

Extra: Rod Pritchard, Director of Marketing and Public Relations
(319) 399-8605 or rpritcha@coe.edu

2016-04-26 13:03:40 - General

Cedar Rapids community leader and physician Dr. Percy Harris will be recognized with an honorary doctorate at the Coe commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 8 at 10 a.m. on the Stewart Memorial Library quad. This year's commencement speaker is 2008 Coe alumna Katherine Roger, the principal of Achievement First Brownsville Elementary in Brooklyn, New York.

This year's baccalaureate speaker is the Rev. Peter W. Marty, the senior pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church, in Davenport, Iowa, and publisher of The Christian Century. Marty will be recognized with an honorary doctorate during the Baccalaureate service, which will be held on Saturday, May 7, beginning at 3 p.m. in Sinclair Auditorium.

At Coe’s commencement, President David McInally will confer Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Bachelor of Music on 300 graduates. In addition, four retiring Coe professors will be honored with emeritus status: Professor of English Charles Aukema, William P. and Gayle S. Whipple Professor of English Robert Drexler, Associate Professor in the Stead Department of Business Administration and Economics Dwight Hansen, and Professor of Education and Associate Dean of the Faculty Terry McNabb.

Dr. Percy Harris

Dr. Percy Harris, the first African American physician in Cedar Rapids, has been a trailblazer in the community throughout his life. As well as serving as a doctor to thousands of patients, he has been a leader for the entire community.

Harris came to Cedar Rapids in 1957 as the first black physician to intern at St. Luke's Hospital. Over the course of the next 40 years, Harris practiced medicine on the staffs of both St. Luke's and Mercy Hospitals. He was named chief of staff at St Luke's Hospital in 1976, where he helped to introduce open heart surgical procedures. In his role as the first medical examiner for Linn County, Harris was known for handling death with compassion for victims and their families. In 1999, he retired from private practice.

To support his practice, many Coe faculty members chose Dr. Harris as their personal physician. In addition, Harris served as a mentor to many young Coe students of color at a time when the college had no African American faculty members.

During the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Harris helped to break down many racial barriers in the Cedar Rapids community. He served on the Black Culture Advisory Board at Coe College and was the first black member of the Iowa Board of Regents. In addition, Harris served as a member of the Mayor's Committee on low-cost housing and chaired the board of directors of the Jane Boyd Community House.

In recognition of his leadership, Harris is the recipient of numerous awards. He served as the president of the Cedar Rapids chapter of the NAACP and was honored as the group's Outstanding Citizen in 1996. The next year, Harris was inducted into the Iowa African American Hall of Fame. Mercy Medical Center awarded Harris its prestigious Gold-Headed Cane and title Medical Laureate for his medical leadership in 1998. In 2000, Harris was recognized by the Rotary Club of Cedar Rapids with its eighth annual award for community service.

Harris and his late wife, Lileah, are the subjects of a recently released book sponsored by UnityPoint Health - Cedar Rapids and Mercy Medical Center entitled, "A Healing Presence in Our Community." The book is intended to honor and preserve the legacy of Dr. Harris.

Commencement speaker Katherine Roger

Katherine Roger is the principal of Achievement First Brownsville Elementary. To prepare for this role, she participated in rigorous leadership training through Achievement First's Principal-in-Residence program. Prior to this role, Roger was the founding academic dean of Achievement First Brownsville Middle School for three years, helping to drive some of the strongest English language arts results in the Achievement First Network and some of the highest math achievement growth in New York City.

Before going to Achievement First, Roger was a program director and real-time coach for Teach For America in Washington, D.C. Roger has also worked as a middle school English language arts teacher in Washington, D.C., and was the recipient of a national Teach For America award.

Roger earned a bachelor's degree in English and French at Coe College and a master's degree in teaching - secondary education from American University. At Coe, Roger served as president of Delta Delta Delta and received the national sorority's Sarah Ida Shaw Award. While graduating from American University, Roger was a national nominee for the Sue Lehmann Excellence in Teaching Award from Teach for America. She was one of 50 nominees from a pool of 3,700 teachers and the lone nominee among 200 secondary teachers in D.C.

Baccalaureate speaker Rev. Peter W. Marty

Peter W. Marty serves as senior pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church, a 3500-member congregation in Davenport, Iowa, and publisher of The Christian Century, a journal devoted to shaping America's conversation about religion and faith in public life.

A frequent preacher and speaker at churches and conferences across the country, Marty has written numerous articles related to culture, character and faith issues in our day. He is the author of "The Anatomy of Grace" (Augsburg Fortress, 2008). From 2004-2009, he served as host of the national radio broadcast, "Grace Matters." In 2010, the Academy of Parish Clergy named him Parish Pastor of the Year, an award recognizing leadership excellence and faithfulness in congregational development.

Marty has preached in some of America's more notable pulpits including Washington National Cathedral, Duke Chapel and Yale University. Since 2010, he has been the lead columnist for The Lutheran magazine. In 2009, he was named the visiting Hoskins Fellow at Yale Divinity School.

Marty has served on various hospital, college, foundation and community boards. He has served as narrator for different faith broadcast documentaries. Marty is a one-time fellow of the Fund for Theological Education, past member of the Louisville Institute's Pastor's Working Group, and a former participant in the Duke Project for the Study of Ministry.

He is a graduate of The Colorado College and Yale Divinity School, and was the recipient of an honors fellowship in history for study at Oxford University.

Schedule of events

Saturday, May 7
10 a.m. - Academic Honors Convocation in Dows Theatre
1 p.m. - Nurses' Pinning Ceremony in Dows Theatre
1:30 p.m. - Phi Beta Kappa initiates will be honored at an induction ceremony in the Perrine Gallery of Stewart Memorial Library.
3 p.m. - Baccalaureate service in Sinclair Memorial Auditorium

Sunday, May 8
10 a.m. - Graduates will ring the Victory Bell in front of Eby Fieldhouse and then proceed across campus, escorted by the faculty, for the start of commencement exercises on the Stewart Memorial Library mall.  Graduates will be honored at a reception in Gage Memorial Union Dining Hall - The "U" - following commencement.  In case of inclement weather, the commencement ceremony will be held in Eby Fieldhouse.

For more information on graduation weekend events, contact the Coe Office of Marketing and Public Relations at (319) 399-8581 or go to www.coe.edu/graduation.

Commencement ceremony