Benjamin J. Urmston, S.J, founder of Xavier’s Peace and Justice Programs and professor emeritus, was awarded the 12th “Keeping the Dream Alive” award from the Church of the Resurrection in Bond Hill, a Cincinnati neighborhood. The award was presented at the church’s annual celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Mon, Jan. 21, at the church.
The award is presented annually to a person who has kept King’s dream alive today and renews hope for the future. Urmston, who came to Xavier more than 40 years ago, was honored for his lifelong efforts around issues of justice.
A veteran of World War II, Urmston participated in three major battles—the Rhine, the Ruhr and Bavaria— with General Patton’s Third Army in Europe. He also served in the Philippines. The horrors of his war experiences inspired him to make a difference in the world for peace, and he decided he could that by entering the priesthood. He joined the Xavier faculty in 1971 and, seeing the need for student involvement in issues of peace and justice, founded the Peace and Justice Programs at Xavier. The student-focused group is now incorporated into the Dorothy Day Center for Faith and Justice.
Urmston, 87, 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.
He previously taught at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati. For 28 years, he hosted a weekly community radio show on WVXU-FM.
Urmston has received numerous awards including the Dorothy Day Medal and the Orchid Award from the Tri-State Environmental Committee, and from Archbishops Joseph L. Bernardin and Daniel E. Pilarczyk for his work with the Archdiocese. 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.
The Church of the Resurrection was established in 2010 when St. Andrew in Avondale, St. Mark in Evanston, St. Agnes in Bond Hill and St. Martin de Porres in Lincoln Heights merged.
Read more about Urmston in Xavier magazine.