Dead Man Walking Author to Speak at Mercer on King Day

December 22, 2010

Media Contact: Mark Vanderhoek, (478) 301-4037 or vanderhoek_m@mercer.edu

MACON — Sister Helen Préjean, author of Dead Man Walking, will deliver Mercer University’s inaugural Freedom Lecture at 7 p.m. on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 17, in Willingham Auditorium on the University’s Macon campus. The event is free and open to the public, and a book signing will be held immediately following the lecture in Newton Chapel. In addition to Préjean’s lecture, she will give a writing workshop and there will be two free film screenings.

One of the foremost advocates for the abolition of the death penalty, Préjean is a Roman Catholic nun, social activist, community organizer, best-selling author and a three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee. While serving the poor of New Orleans, she began correspondence with a man on death row, eventually became his spiritual adviser and accompanied him to his execution. From her experiences, Préjean wrote Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States. A Notable Book and Pulitzer Prize nominee, the book was on the New York Times bestseller list for 31 weeks. It was adapted into an Oscar-nominated film by Tim Robbins, starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn.

The book and film have helped to propel Préjean to the forefront of the debate over the death penalty and she has been interviewed by hundreds of broadcast and print media outlets around the world. Her second book, The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions, was published in 2004. In it, she tells the story of two men, Dobie Gillis Williams and Joseph O’Dell, whom she accompanied to their executions. She believes both of them were innocent. Fifteen years after beginning her crusade, the Roman Catholic sister has witnessed five executions in Louisiana and today educates the public about the death penalty by lecturing, organizing and writing. As the founder of “Survive,” a victim’s advocacy group in New Orleans, she continues to counsel not only inmates on death row, but the families of murder victims, as well.
 
The Martin Luther King Jr. Day Freedom Lecture at Mercer seeks to bring leading thinkers to the University whose vision reflects the values of faith, education, freedom, community and morality expressed in the institution’s mission and in the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr.

Film Screenings (Free)

At the Death House Door
A documentary that focuses on the career of a chaplain at the Texas Department of Corrections and his change of heart and view about the death penalty.
Sunday, Jan. 16, at 1:30 p.m.
St. Joseph Catholic Church, Social Hall

Dead Man Walking
Starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn and directed by Tim Robbins
Monday, Jan. 17, at 2 p.m.
Cox Capitol Theatre

The event is co-sponsored by Mercer University’s College of Continuing and Professional Studies, Mercer Office of the Provost, Centenary United Methodist Church, St. Joseph Catholic Church and The Regeneration Writers. It is presented in partnership with Congregation Sha’arey Israel, Cox Capitol Theatre, Daughters of Charity, Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church, Georgians for an Alternative to the Death Penalty, High Street Unitarian Universalist Church, the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, St. James Episcopal Church, Temple Beth Israel, Tubman African American Museum and Tremont Temple Missionary Baptist Church.

About the College of Continuing and Professional Studies
The College offers degree programs and lifelong learning opportunities for adults who seek leadership roles in their communities and beyond, professional transition and advancement, and lives that have meaning and purpose. The College offers undergraduate degree programs in organizational leadership, human resources administration and development, public safety, liberal studies (individualized), and human services, and graduate programs in counseling, school counseling, and public safety leadership. Its programs are offered on Mercer’s Macon and Atlanta campuses, at the University’s regional academic centers in Henry County, Douglas County, Eastman and Newnan. Beginning the fall of 2011 the College will offer a Bachelor of Science in Informatics and in January 2012 a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership.

About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,200 students in 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies – on major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah and at three regional academic centers across the state. Mercer is affiliated with two teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah and the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. The University operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit www.mercer.edu.
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