The Cincinnati Chapter of the NAACP will present its Fair and Courageous Award to Fr. Benjamin J. Urmston, S.J., PhD at the 56th Annual Freedom Fund Dinner Friday, October 21. Urmston is Director Emeritus of Peace and Justice at Xavier University. The award, established in 2005, is presented to a public servant who performs fairly, impartially and courageously, and publicly recognizes professionals demonstrating fairness and courage. Urmston will share the award with Sister Alice Gerdeman of the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center. Morris Dees, Founder and Chief Trial counsel of the Southern Poverty Law Center, will be the evening’s keynote speaker.
Urmston, who turned 86 in September, has been at Xavier for forty years. Over that time, he has been active in neighborhood community councils, especially Evanston Community Council, was a member of the Cincinnati Archdiocesan Commission of Social Action and World Peace, a member of the Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati, the Rural Life Conference of the Cincinnati Archdiocese, the St. Francis-St. Joseph Catholic Worker House shelter for homeless men, the Peace and Justice Studies Association, Rural Resources, St. Robert Bellarmine Chapel, Christian Life Community USA, and Cincinnati NAACP. Fr. Ben also was active with the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and the Justice Across Campus Committee at Xavier. For twenty-eight years he hosted a weekly community radio show on WVXU-FM. He also taught at University of Detroit Jesuit High School and St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati. A veteran of World War II, he was in General Patton’s Third Army in Europe and participated in three major battles, The Rhine, the Ruhr, and Bavaria. He also served in the Philippine Islands.
He has received the Dorothy Day Medal for his initiatives at Xavier, the Xavier Muslim Student Association Award of Recognition, the Orchid Award from the Tri-State Environmental Committee, awards for his work with the Archdiocese from Archbishops Joseph L. Bernardin and Daniel E. Pilarczyk, the Manhattan College Peace Studies Medal "to recognize his outstanding and significant contribution to peacemaking and Peace Studies through his personal life and institutional witness." In 2002, Urmston received the Rev. Maurice McCrackin Award, given to those who demonstrate support for the basic human rights of all, integrity and commitment in the struggle for social justice, leadership and inspiration, teaching with wisdom and compassion through words and actions. In 2003, he was given the "Religious Leader of the Year Award for his commitment to the Contact Center, the Cincinnati Welfare Rights Coalition, and the Ohio Empowerment Coalition.
Urmston has created a website www.xavier.edu/frben.