January 24, 2006
Director of Media Relations

AMHERST, Mass.—The Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts III, pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in the City of New York and president of the State University of New York College at Old Westbury, will lead the annual interfaith service in celebration of the life of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 10, in Johnson Chapel at Amherst College. The service will include music performed by Amherst College students, readings from King’s writings and an address by Butts, known as a stirring speaker. The public is invited to arrive early to listen to recorded speeches of King at 6:30 p.m. in Johnson Chapel.

A powerful preacher and native New Yorker, Butts received a B.A. degree in philosophy from Morehouse College, a Master of Divinity in church history from Union Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry in church and public policy from Drew University. He has taught in the African Studies Department at City College, New York, and Fordham University. Butts is the president of the Council of Churches of the City of New York, chairman of the National Affiliate Development Initiative of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS (BLCA) and has served as president of Africare New York City.

The Abyssinian Baptist Church, led by Butts, is committed to a Christian mission in the community. Butts was a founder of the Abyssinian Development Corporation, a community-based organization responsible for more than $100 million in housing and commercial development in Harlem. The Thurgood Marshall Academy for Learning and Social Change, a public intermediate and high school, is a project of the Abyssinian Development Corporation. Butts has led several boycotts against racist policies and employment discrimination in New York and a campaign that eliminated negative billboard advertising in Harlem and communities elsewhere in the city. This “billboard whitewashing” campaign helped to sensitize the country to the evils of drug abuse and exploitive advertising, and Butts also has raised the issue of rap lyrics that target women and praise violence.

President of SUNY Old Westbury since 1999, Butts has reinvigorated one of the most diverse public college campuses in America. Under his leadership the college has increased its enrollment, added full-time faculty and expanded the services it provides to support and aid students, embarking on an ambitious program of building.

Butts has received numerous awards, including “Man of the Year” from the Morehouse College Alumni Association, the William M. Moss Distinguished Brotherhood Award and the Louise Fisher Morris Humanitarian Award. Butts has been recognized as a Living Treasure by the New York City Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Butts currently delivers a weekly sermon each Sunday, on KISS Radio (98.7 FM in New York).