Campus & Community

Olympic record holder Bob Beamon to speak at PBSC’s 24th annual MLK celebration Jan. 19

Robert “Bob” Beamon, who set a world record when he landed a long jump of 29 feet, 2 ½ inches at the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City, will be the keynote speaker at Palm Beach State College’s 24th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.

Themed “When Standing Up Matters,” the celebration will begin at 11 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 19, in the Duncan Theatre on the Lake Worth campus. It is free and open to the public, but attendees are asked to RSVP at

In South Jamaica, Queens, N.Y., athletics fueled Beamon’s transition from hanging out on the streets to attending college, becoming a New York state record holder and Junior Olympian, and winning multiple awards in the long and triple jump. By the 1968 Olympics, he had 22 wins in 23 events, earning him a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. Beamon was 22 years old when he made the jump that earned him a gold medal and broke the existing world and Olympic record by 1.8 feet. It is an Olympic record that still stands over 50 years later. His success led to the term “Beamonesque,” which is still used to describe great sports exploits.

MLK Leadership Awards
As part of the celebration, PBSC will highlight its 2023 Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Awards winners. The six honorees are being recognized in five categories for their service and work to improve the lives of others, particularly the underserved. They are:

Bernard Harrigan (Alumni), a 2021 PBSC graduate who is now an environmental justice and social change major at Florida Atlantic University, who is passionate about using diplomacy to engage Black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) communities in climate change action plans. Harrigan was named a 2022 Udall Scholar for his work in conservation issues, and he was selected as a Leon Charney Diplomacy Research Fellow and received Outstanding Delegate recognition at the National Model United Nations.

Jacqueline Pecker (Student), a student in the Dr. Floyd F. Koch Honors College who credits Palm Beach State College’s leadership opportunities for paving her road to recovery from mental illness. She said PBSC lifted her back up, so she wants to do the same for others. Among her achievements, as Phi Theta Kappa chapter president at the Boca Raton campus, she piloted the “Let’s Press ‘Paws’” initiative, which promotes mental health awareness at PBSC by providing safe spaces for students to “press pause” on life’s demands with on-campus monthly therapeutic activities.

Professors Eliana Mukherjee, Ph.D., and Kalisha Waldon, Ph.D. (Faculty/Staff), who have provided training on culturally responsive pedagogy through workshops offered by Palm Beach State College’s Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence. They also were a facilitator for the 2021 and 2022 Summer Institutes. Their work has impacted numerous faculty over the years and led to curriculum and assessment redesign to help bridge the completion and retention gaps, particularly among students of color, low-income and first-generation college students.

The Rev. J.R. Thicklin, D.Div. (Individual), the lead servant and influencer of Transforming Grace Ministries and president & CEO of Destiny by Choice, where he is empowering lives and shaping destinies of those impacted by domestic and sexual violence, fatherlessness, and other social and health determinants. The Selma, Ala. native has brought to his ministry a unique combination of fervency and humility for 38 years. Thicklin’s efforts and programs begin early in the lives of young men. His program Destiny Changers: Raising Boys to Men is focused on boys ages 10-19 and addresses key areas of self-identity, responsibility, purpose, service and vision.

Women of Tomorrow Mentor and Scholarship Program (Organization), which was founded in 1997 by television journalist and author Jennifer Valoppi and Don Browne, former president of Telemundo Communications Group, Inc. and former president and general manager of WTVJ, the Women of Tomorrow Mentor & Scholarship Program (WOT) to inspire and motivate at-risk girls to live up to their full potential through small group mentoring by highly accomplished professional women and empowering mentees to achieve their dreams through scholarship opportunities for higher education. WOT currently mentors more than 4,000 primarily minority students in 160 public high schools in South Florida and Metro Detroit, in partnership with public school systems.

For more information about the event, speaker and honorees, visit,

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