The Cincinnati Chapter of the NAACP presented its Fair and Courageous Award to Benjamin J. Urmston, S.J., professor emeritus of Peace and Justice Programs at Xavier, at the 56th Annual Freedom Fund Dinner at the Duke Energy Convention Center on Friday, Oct. 21.
The award, established in 2005, is presented to a public servant who performs fairly, impartially and courageously. The award also publicly recognizes professionals demonstrating fairness and courage. Urmston shared 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, was the evening’s keynote speaker.
Urmston, who turned 86 in September, has been at Xavier for 40 years. He has been active in community groups including Evanston Community Council, Cincinnati Archdiocesan Commission of Social Action and World Peace, the St. Francis-St. Joseph Catholic Worker House shelter for homeless men, St. Robert Bellarmine Chapel, and the Cincinnati NAACP.
Urmston also was active with the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and the Justice Across Campus Committee at Xavier. For 28 years, he hosted a weekly community radio show on WVXU-FM. He also taught at the 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 Philippines.
Urmston has received numerous awards including the Dorothy Day Medal and the Orchid Award from the Tri-State Environmental Committee, and for his work with the Archdiocese from Archbishops Joseph L. Bernardin and Daniel E. Pilarczyk. 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.