A West Virginia University law professor known for her human rights efforts has won WVU s 12th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award.
The Center for Black Culture and Research presented Emily Spieler with the award at an 8 a.m. Unity Breakfast in the Mountainlair ballrooms today (Monday, Jan. 21), the day the nation commemorates the life of Dr. King.
“We found Professors Spielers lifetime commitment to human rights advocacy most befitting the dream of social justice espoused by Dr. King,”said Katherine Bankole, CBC &R director.”Her good works and humanitarian efforts on behalf of those less fortunate speak volumes about who she is. We are most pleased to bestow upon her this honor.”
Spieler helped create Morgantowns Community Coalition for Social Justice (CCSJ).
“Emily exemplifies many of the things that Dr. King talked about in his I Have a Dream speech,”said Al Anderson, CCSJ vice chair.”In reaching out to those who have no one to speak for them, Emily has brought people from all walks of life together for the betterment of all people.”
Spieler has committed her life to the goals of social justice, particularly in West Virginia, said WVU Associate Dean of the WVU College of Law Joyce McConnell.
“Too many of us watch an injustice and whisper how sad it is or how angry it makes us and move on, becoming absorbed in the demands of our own lives,”McConnell said.
It was after witnessing a local injustice, that Spieler took action and helped to create the CCJS , she said.
“By creating this council, she has lighted a candle against darkness,”she added.”I can think of no one who better exemplifies Dr. Kings vision of equality and social justice than Professor Spieler.”
WVU Center for Womens Studies Director Barbara Howe commended Spieler for using her expertise in employment and industrial relations law to work especially hard for those without access to economic and political power.
“Through her legal expertise and activism, she has particularly focused her energy on providing better working conditions for employees and on providing an environment that protects human rights,”Dr. Howe said.
In 1986, Spieler became the first recipient of the West Virginia Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission”Living the Dream”Award for Advocacy of Justice, she said, an award she earned while serving as the states first deputy attorney general for civil rights.
“She has continued to work for social justice since that time,”Howe said.”This includes her work with the Human Rights Commission from 1990-97 and as the founder and first president of the Community Coalition for Social Justice, a group that unites all interested in Morgantowns social justice issues.”
Spieler has a”passion”for defending societys less fortunate, said Tim Hairston, chairman of the Civil Rights and Education Committees of the Monongalia-Preston Labor Council.
“Her fervor for defending those parts of society that have little or no access to legal representation seem to be a great driving force in her life,”Hairston said.
Spieler most recently became one of only two WVU law school faculty ever to receive a prestigious Fulbright Award to study and teach abroad.
While at Irelands University of Cork this past semester, Spielerformer commissioner of the West Virginia Workers Compensation Fundstudied the countrys employment and disability laws.
In particular, she researched how workers can have more input into determining the laws that govern their employment, particularly those impacted by disability laws.
Spieler came to WVU at Morgantown in 1990 as a visiting associate professor of law and associate professor of labor studies, becoming a full professor in 1994.
Prior to that, she taught labor studies at WVU s Institute for Labor Studies in Charleston.
She was hearing examiner of the West Virginia Human Rights Commission from 1982-83 and state deputy attorney general for civil rights from 1985-87.
Spieler was in private practice in the Charleston area from 1978-83, specializing in labor, employment and civil rights law.
In 1978, she came to West Virginia from Massachusetts to co-direct the Cabin Creek Health Associations Occupational Health Project at Dawes.
She was special assistant attorney general for the Massachusetts Department of Public
Health from 1975-77, and from 1976-78, she was in private practice in Cambridge, Mass., specializing in employment law.
In 1974, she was a partner in the Massachusetts law firm of Allen, Flaherty, Rosenberg, Saltzman and Spieler.
Spieler graduated magna cum laude from Cambridge, MassachusettsHarvard-Radcliffe College in 1969 and the Yale College of Law in New Haven, Conn., in 1973.
The center also presented WVU sophomore Randolph Hill with this years Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship during the Unity Breakfast.
The presentation of Spielers award, sponsored by the WVU Office of the President, was one of several WVU activities held in conjunction with Dr. Kings birthday.
Last Thursday, hundreds attended a talk by Judy Richardson, co-producer of the acclaimed documentary Eyes on the Prizea chronicle of Americas civil rights battles from the bus boycotts to the Freedom ridersat Morgantowns St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Civil rights activist Virgil Wood also spoke on How Old Realities Become New through the Dream in the Mountainlairs Mountaineer Room.