Seal of Dane County County of Dane
County Executive's Office

2012 City-County Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Awardees Announced

January 15, 2013
Isadore Knox, Jr., Dane County Office of Equal Opportunity, 608-266-4192 Lucia Nuñez, City of Madison, Department of Civil Rights, 608-266-5916 Colleen Clark, Dane County Office of Equal Opportunity, 608-266-3022
County Executive

Madison – Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and City of Madison Mayor Paul Soglin today announced the recipients of the combined City-County Humanitarian Award honoring the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  The award winners, selected by the City-County Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission, are community members who reflect the values of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


The City and County will present the awards at the 28h Annual City-County Martin Luther King, Jr. Observance on Monday, January 21st, at the Overture Center Capital Theater, 201 State Street, Madison.  The program begins at 6:00 p.m.


The 2012 City-County Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award recipients are: Mr. Edward Lee and Ms. Mercile Lee. The Youth Award goes to Ms. Rayanna Thigpen.  Information regarding each of the worthy award winners is attached.


“The Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award is a unique part of Dane County history.  It is an honor to Chair a Commission that annually honors individuals for their tireless volunteerism toward the betterment of all Dane County residents in the name of a great humanitarian,” states Humanitarian Award Chair David Wandel.


Award recipients


The City-County annual award is given to individuals who have made outstanding contributions and exemplified Dr. King’s non-violent philosophy.  Each award winner, past and present, has enhanced the fabric of Dane County.


“Dane County’s tradition of volunteerism, social activism and building bridges is exemplified by our two adult award winners,” said County Executive Joe Parisi.  “For decades Ed Lee has been dedicated to uplifting all through his work with the Urban League.  Mercile Lee has been undeterred in her lifelong pursuit of quality education for all.  Steadfast in their convictions and peaceful in their interactions—they both deserve our thanks. Our youth winner—Rayanna Thigpen—has done a great job overcoming many obstacles and we look forward to her ongoing successes.”



Madison and Dane County are better places to live, work and raise a family because of Ed Lee and Mercile Lee,” said Madison Mayor Paul Soglin.  “His work to assist both adults and youth through the Urban League has been vital to that organization’s success. Her incredible leadership with the University of Wisconsin supporting students of color has made an incredible difference in the lives of thousands of young adults.  It is because of hundreds of people like Ed Lee and Mercile Lee, working with others, and sharing their time and talent, that a young woman like Rayanna Thigpen has been able to overcome adversity, continue involvement in the Boys and Girls Club and excel in school.  My congratulations to Ed, Mercile and Rayanna.”


Edward Lee—Humanitarian Award

Ed  Lee has worked for over two decades for social justice and systemic change in Dane County.  Ed Lee has been active in the Urban League of Greater Madison for over 17 years.  During his tenure, he has had many responsibilities that have had a profound effect on our community.  His work spans all age groups.  Beginning with creating opportunities for youth, which include: Project JAMAA, Schools of Hope, and College Readiness programming. Ed played a pivotal role in the initial development of Schools of Hope Middle School academic tutoring program—expanding from initially 2 sites to now operating in 18 schools across 4 school districts and serving 2,000 youth each year.


 A tireless advocate, Ed has extensive community involvement on countless boards.  Ed’s personal commitment for social justice embodies many of Dr. King’s principles.  His commitment is demonstrated in his professional and personal life.  Dr. King stated, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” 


Mercile Lee—Humanitarian Award


Mercile Lee has led a personal and professional life which exemplifies Dr. King’s teachings.  Ms. Lee was born and raised in a time in our country’s history when it was legal to deny someone opportunity simply because of the color of their skin.  Those early experiences in the segregated south have led her to a life focus rooted in ensuring success of all young people—regardless of race, ethnicity or socio-economic status.  Her unwavering commitment has benefited thousands in Dane County.


The Chancellor’s Scholarship Program, UW-Madison was founded and directed by Mercile J. Lee until her retirement in 2012.  This merit-based scholarships support students who may be African, Hispanic, Native or Southeast Asian American descent.  By all measures, the program has become a great success—not only for the individual—but the UW campus, our community and our nation.  Mercile has been an active volunteer board member on many committees and organizations.   Her work has inspired thousands of young people in Dane County to reach their dreams.


Rayanna Thigpen


In the category of “Youth Leader”, this year’s recipient is 17-year-old Rayanna Thigpen.  A senior at Madison West High School, Rayanna has overcome many challenges to find success. Rayanna works as a membership service specialist at the Boys and Girls Club.  A young woman with a welcoming smile and friendly demeanor—her affability has an effect on everyone in the Club—from first time visitors to club kids and families.


Rayanna will graduate this spring and looks to pursue a career in Nursing.  Rayanna has a clear understanding of Dr. King’s dream of giving, growing, caring and sharing. Her education and affability has become her passport to a uplifting future.


The City-County Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award accepts nominations year round for individuals whose volunteerism and efforts follow Dr. King’s non-violent philosophy.  Please consider nominating a “hero of peace”.

#   #   #   #   #