Giants Awards presented January 26, 2013

Contact: Kathy Mullins

Executive Deputy to the President and Board Liaison


January 25, 2013 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Eleven people are being recognized as “giants” by Grand Rapids Community College for the contributions they’ve made to the community.

GRCC will honor the 11 recipients of the 31st annual Giants Awards at 7:15 p.m. January 26, 2013 in DeVos Place’s Steelcase Ballroom, 303 Monroe Ave. NW.

Since 1983, GRCC has presented the annual awards recognizing African-American individuals or organizations for their exceptional contributions shaping the history and quality of life of the Grand Rapids area. Each award is named after a local person who has demonstrated excellence and serves as a perpetual memorial to those notable contributions.

Proceeds from the January 26, 213 event will go to the Grand Rapids Community College Foundation’s Milo M. Brown Memorial Scholarship Fund. Two or more scholarships are awarded annually to African-American students.

This year’s Giants are:

• Anita Hitchcock will receive the Floyd Skinner Justice Award, named for Skinner, who partnered with a fellow attorney to eliminate what was then called “Jim Crow” segregated seating in local movie theaters, a policy which forced blacks to sit only in the balconies. Skinner is also credited with overcoming barriers preventing blacks from holding white-collar jobs at City Hall.

• Shawn A. Harris will receive the Walter Coe Public Service Award, named for the man who, in 1922, was the first African-American police officer hired by the city of Grand Rapids.

• Lennox Forrest will receive the Eugene Browning Medical Service Award, named for the founder of a center upon which present-day “well baby clinics” are patterned.

• Johngerlyn “Jonse” Young will receive the W.W. Plummer Humanitarian Award, named for a dentist who repeatedly took his services to the people of the under-developed country of Haiti.

• Ophelia Graves will receive the Milo Brown Business Award, named for a man who opened a full-service mortuary establishment that proudly served the needs of the black community.

• Mary Harden Johnson will receive the Phyllis Scott Activist Award, a woman who fought for the rights and dignity of minority students in a time when many inequalities were prevalent in the Grand Rapids Public Schools.

• Teresa Weatherall Neal will receive the William Glenn Trailblazer Award, named for the man who led the effort to overcome the barriers preventing blacks from holding jobs in weapons factories as late as WW II.

• Sarah Brooks will receive the Raymond Tardy Community Service Award, named for the executive director of the Kent Community Action Program, or Kent CAP. He headed up the agency that was the forerunner of several local social action agencies, including the Sheldon, Northeast and Westside complexes as well as the Area Community Service & Training (ACSET) council.

• Pastor Kyle Ray will receive the H.C. Toliver Religious Life Award, named for a man who practiced what he preached by reaching out to all in our community.

• Dr. Shirley Johnson will receive the Hattie Beverly Education Award, named for a woman who arrived in Grand Rapids in 1899 and paved the way for minorities to take up the teaching profession.

The Giant Among Giants Award will be announced at the January 26, 2013 banquet.

Grand Rapids Community College, established in 1914, offers opportunities for over 30,000 students annually in degree courses, certification and training programs, workshops and personal enrichment classes. GRCC holds classes on the downtown Grand Rapids campus as well as several additional locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties.