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100th Anniversary Edition

Alumni News | Vol. 3, No. 3 | Spring 1995

Profile: Crusading tirelessly for justice

ALUMNI NEWS MAGAZINE | 100th Anniversary Edition

A ’58 grad devotes a lifetime to the pursuit of human rights


When Jennifer Wade (Prosser, BA'58) once got together with her two sons and her foster daughter over the Christmas holidays, she found herself in a position that most parents never experience. She was being discussed as having given her children more trouble than all three of them together had ever given her. 

"They were all huddled around the kitchen table when I walked in. I could tell that I had interrupted them:' Ms Wade laughs.  

This "trouble" resulted from her unceasing efforts to speak out for those who were less fortunate than herself, even if the position she was taking was unpopular or difficult. Sometimes it got her into some pretty sticky situations, but she will tell you herself that it was all worth it. 

Over a lifetime, Ms Wade has been a defender and a promoter of human rights both in North America and abroad. And at the end of 1994, Ms Wade was honored with the Renate Shearer Award by the United Nations Association and the B.C. Human Rights Coalition for her lifetime contribution to human rights.  

She never did it for the recognition. She never wanted money. She did it because she learned early on that hers was a privileged life, and that by doing even small things she could make a big difference. 

Ms Wade was in Berkeley, Calif., in 1963-64 during the beginning of the free speech movement. It was there that she became increasingly conscious of the issues of the day. So when she and her husband and infant son moved to Georgia shortly after, she could not ignore the Civil Rights Movement that was swirling all around them.  

"I've always pictured myself as an ant in an elephant's ear. It may just be a nuisance, but in the end it brings the big beast down."

That was when the trouble began. While working with the Southern Regional Council, an integrated organization dedicated to helping solve the racial problem through research and education, she was also teaching a senior writing course at Emory University. Traditionally, professors had used the Gettysburg Address as an example of great rhetorical writing. Instead, Ms Wade used "Letter From a Birmingham Jail" by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whom she had met on several occasions in her civil rights work. 

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