EMU Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration awards highlight outstanding service; honorees include two EMU students, a Washtenaw County public official and the county's top law enforcement officer

Students Chayna Brunner, Desmine Robinson honored, along with State Representative Ronnie Peterson and Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton

EMU Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration awards highlight outstanding service; honorees include two EMU students, a Washtenaw County public official and the county's top law enforcement officer
Rep. Ronnie Peterson, Desmine Robinson, EMU President James Smith, Chayna Brunner, Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton

YPSILANTI – Two Eastern Michigan University students, a longtime Washtenaw County public official and the county’s top law enforcement officer were honored Monday, Jan. 15 for how they exemplify the values and ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and for their contributions to the University and the community.

Chayna Brunner received the annual $1,000 EMU Student Scholarship Award, and Desmine Robinson received the Evans-Strand Scholarship Award. The annual $1,000 award, modeled after the Nobel Peace Prize, annually recognizes an individual for contributions in advancing the understanding and furthering the acceptance of diversity at Eastern.

State Representative Ronnie Peterson and Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton were honored with EMU Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Awards.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Student Scholarship Award: Chayna Brunner

Chayna Brunner
Chayna Brunner

Brunner pursues a commitment to promoting respect and improving the quality of life for all people consistent with the ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through her numerous leadership experiences and memberships on campus, said Donna Holubik, EMU’s director of financial aid, who introduced Brunner.

Brunner, a junior who is studying psychology and communication, serves as a Peer Advising Student Fellow and a Recruiting and Retention Student Fellow at The Honors College, a UNIV Academic Peer Mentor/Success Coach at The Holman Success Center, and as the Vice President of the Black Honors Student Organization.

“Chayna is a sunflower,” Holubik said. “Her bright smiles and cheerful laughter can melt away anyone's bad day. Her sunshine personality, kindness, commitment, and overall work ethic are what make her an exceptional individual who is more than deserving of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Student Scholarship.”

Evans-Strand Diversity Award: Desmine Robinson

Desmine Robinson
Desmine Robinson

In his years at Eastern, Robinson, a junior, has become a vocal and charismatic leader in helping to unify the campus and promoting discussion of racism and fairness that involves a wide variety of students and staff.

This year, he hosted his second annual Unity March, leading a group of about 100 people from the Hill area residence halls to King Hall amid a procession of songs and speeches. He hosted a similar event in fall 2016 in the wake of racist vandalism on several EMU buildings, including King Hall, that greatly concerned many students and EMU staff.

His EMU involvements include work at the EMU Women’s Resource Center, Upward Bound and the Active Minds and Diversity Inclusion groups at Eastern.

Robinson, who is studying psychology at Eastern, “is a strong advocate for bringing EMU together in terms of dialogue and action,” said Kathleen Stacey, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, who introduced Robinson.

MLK Humanitarian Awards: Ronnie Peterson, Jerry Clayton

Jerry Clayton
Sheriff Jerry Clayton

Jerry Clayton is currently serving his third term as the Sheriff of Washtenaw County.

He started his career in criminal justice at Eastern Michigan University, majoring in Public Safety Administration. He is also a graduate of the EMU School of Staff and Command and was a member of the football team.

During his 29-year in criminal justice, he has served as a front-line corrections officer, deputy sheriff and command officer.

Sheriff Clayton serves on the boards of numerous local organizations, including the Washtenaw Area Council for Children, Washtenaw County Continuum of Care Board, and the SafeHouse Center.

In 2017, at the invitation of the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights, Sheriff Clayton was the representative from the United States and a presenter at an international conference on law enforcement and bias-based policing in Geneva, Switzerland. This year, He will participate in a US-UK exchange in London, England, focusing on Building Leadership for Fair and Effective Policing.

In introducing Sheriff Clayton, EMU President James Smith noted that his tireless dedication to service and leadership in our community has made it a better place for all people.

(Sheriff Clayton) truly represents the leadership and commitment to service and justice that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood for in his lifetime, Smith said.

Ronnie Peterson
Rep. Ronnie Peterson

Ronnie Peterson is serving his first term in the House of Representatives representing the 54th House District, which includes the city of Ypsilanti, along with Ypsilanti and Superior townships.

Representative Peterson has been engaged in public service for more than 30 years. He served the Washtenaw County community as a member of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners. Before countywide service, he was a member of the Ypsilanti City Council for two terms.

Rep. Peterson played a leading role in stimulating job creation, economic development and delivery of public services in Washtenaw County. For example, he was instrumental in founding the Eastern Washtenaw County Leaders forum and establishing the Spark East Business Incubator

In addition, Rep. Peterson initiated civic improvement projects such as renovating the 14th District Court, establishing the Washtenaw Human Services office in his community and increasing neighborhood improvement projects around the EMU campus.

Beyond his official duties, Rep. Peterson also served on the boards of numerous associations and charitable organizations.

Throughout Representative Peterson’s exemplary career in public service, from the Ypsilanti City Council to the State Capitol, he has shown tremendous dedication, compassion and leadership, President Smith said.

A gallery of photos from the President's Luncheon is posted online. 

About Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 20,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Health and Human Services; Technology, and its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.

January 17, 2018

Written by:
Geoff Larcom

Geoff Larcom