October 1, 2023

UMW Receives International Award for Freedom Rides Tribute

The University of Mary Washington has been recognized with the prestigious international “Grand Gold” Circle of Excellence Award by the Council of Advancement and Support for Education (CASE) for its 2011 tribute to James Farmer and the 1960s Freedom Rides.

UMW received the top award in the special events category and was one of only 19 institutions receiving the “grand gold” award for exceptional entries. CASE received more than 2,800 entries in 40 categories from 567 member institutions, independent schools and nonprofit organizations around the world. The International Circle of Excellence awards program distinguishes outstanding work in advancement services, alumni relations, communications, fundraising and marketing. The work was judged by peer professionals as well as those from outside the educational arena.

Simeon Booker and Reginald Green sit in front of student exhibit

“In the marking of an event that changed the course of history, I’m thrilled that the rest of the world now recognizes what I long have believed: the University of Mary Washington mounted the greatest tribute possible to James Farmer and the Freedom Rides,” said President Richard V. Hurley. “Nothing has made me prouder.”

UMW launched one of the most comprehensive institution-wide projects in the history of the university to honor the legacy of James Farmer, a former UMW professor who was the architect of the Freedom Rides that challenged the segregation of public transportation throughout the South. The semester-long commemoration centered on a 1960s-era bus embellished with historical photos of the 1961 Freedom Rides and featured guest lecturers, student exhibits and a limited-release showing of the PBS documentary “Freedom Riders.” The tribute culminated with commencement addresses by former Freedom Riders, U.S. Representatives Bob Filner and John Lewis, who applauded the university’s efforts. Said Lewis, “No other university—no other college—in America is pausing like you have to celebrate and commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides.”  In addition, UMW hosted a stop by the PBS “American Experience” bus carrying college-age students—including UMW student Charles Reed—retracing the route of the first Freedom Ride.

Charles Reed '11

A UMW Freedom Rides website chronicled the celebration, and UMW published a special “Freedom Rides” edition of the UMW Magazine. The events attracted national media attention and brought thousands of visitors to the Fredericksburg campus.

For more information about the CASE award, go to www.case.org/Award_Programs/Circle_of_Excellence/2012_Winners/Special_Events_2012.html.

About Brynn Boyer

Brynn Boyer is assistant director of media and public relations and a 2010 graduate of UMW.