The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Communication and Information will hold its annual Experience Diversity Banquet at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 2, at Bearden Banquet Hall, 5806 Kingston Pike, in Knoxville.
The keynote speaker is Avon W. Rollins Sr., director and CEO of the Beck Cultural Exchange Center in Knoxville, and president and CEO of Rollins & Associates, a management consulting firm. Rollins will receive the 2012 CCI Diversity Award at the event.
Alice R. Bowling Wirth, a lecturer in the college’s School of Communication Studies and director of the college’s Diversity Student Leaders Society (DSLS), said the banquet is DSLS’s major fundraiser for the year.
“The funds raised from this year’s banquet will provide our students with support, programs and experiences that will help prepare them for their futures as professionals,” Wirth said. “The activities in which DSLS members engage inspire students to believe in themselves, to become leaders and to embrace and value the importance of diversity and inclusion in building stronger social, business and civic communities.”
Rollins retired from the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1994 as manager of minority resources development for the seven-state utility. He was responsible for generating more than $30 million in funding from federal, state and private sources to reinvest in the minority community.
Rollins is a past member of the UT Chancellor’s Associates and the Knoxville College President’s Round Table and serves as an adjunct professor to historically black colleges through the National Urban League’s Black Executive Exchange Program.
In addition to his background in business and education, Rollins was involved in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. He was a co-founder of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and worked with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. His non-violent civil disobedience work led him to be incarcerated 31 times during the struggle for civil rights for African Americans.
Rollins has received recognition from various national, state and local organizations, including the National Business League and the Booker T. Washington Foundation. The National Civil Rights Museum of Memphis and the East Tennessee Minority Professional Association dedicated its annual Heritage Award in honor of him. He has twice received the Minority Business Advocate Award presented by the U.S. Department of Commerce. In 1993, the National Black Caucus of State Legislators presented Rollins with its “National Builders Award.” In 1994, the National Association of Human Rights Workers dedicated its annual conference to him.
Rollins’ commitment to human rights has been described in more than a dozen books covering the history of the Civil Rights movement and the struggle for minority economic development in the U.S. The 94th session of the Tennessee General Assembly honored Rollins for his many accomplishments, which also have been recorded in the U.S. Congressional Record.
In addition to the keynote speech, the program will include creative diversity presentations, music and dancing.