mlk day luminaries

Luminaries at the MLK Drum Major for Justice Awards Banquet reflect the thoughts of Missouri Western students, faculty and staff on ways we can together be the dream as we advance diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, belonging, and justice for all.

Jan. 19, 2023–Three people were honored by the Center for Diversity and Inclusion at Missouri Western State University with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drum Major for Justice Awards on Wednesday, Jan. 18.

The awards annually recognize one Missouri Western student, one Missouri Western employee and one St. Joseph community member for their work in advancing diversity, equity and inclusion.

Award recipients are:

Community Member – Loes Hedge

Her nominator writes: Loes Hedge is a champion, caring leader of many organizations in the St. Joseph community. She currently serves as secretary of NAACP and has been a leader in the organization for decades. Loes connects with MWSU NAACP collegiate members by including them in local St. Joseph NAACP chapter meetings and other events. For the last several years, Loes has volunteered with voter registration drives on-campus at MWSU during Western Warm-Up, welcoming all students to get involved, know their voting rights, and to vote. Loes always encourage students to get involved in the community. She has invited students to become involved with Juneteenth at community booth events, where they have together encouraged attendees to vote, join the organization, and participate in activities. She encourages MWSU students to enhance their leadership. She never gives up and, like Dr. King, she is always gracious and caring.

MWSU Employee – Dr. Evan Hart, assistant professor of history

Her nominator writes: Dr. Hart continually works to make sure that historically marginalized student populations have their stories made manifest in the lectures and topics covered in her American history classes. This requires the core qualities of empathy, sympathy, and patience, coupled with a demonstrated passion to help students understand injustice and develop strategies for addressing those injustices both as a student and as a member of the broader communities in which they are embedded. She prioritizes accessibility for marginalized students who are struggling with a range of issues, many of which are related to the ongoing challenges of systemic oppression, while striving to create safe spaces for students to come to talk about and act on those issues. She is deeply caring and consistently demonstrates that she is invested in each one of those students in her classes specifically and at the university generally.

MWSU Student – Artemii Udovenko, junior psychology major

His nominator writes: Understanding that the university is home to diverse populations and strongly believing that equality of opportunity is an essential part of social justice, Artemii Udovenko focuses a lot of his attention on improving low-income students’ experiences at MWSU. His first step was to ensure that members of systemically underprivileged communities did not have to worry about meeting their basic needs through his efforts with food insecurity programs. He used his advocacy skills to make sure that Student Government Association members were aware of the financial needs of the Campus Cupboard and promoted the Cupboard as a crucial resource for Missouri Western State University students. In addition, he strives to reduce the stigma associated with using the Campus Cupboard, eliminating the notion that it might be embarrassing or humiliating to use it as a resource.

In addition to the award presentations, the annual MLK Drum Major for Justice Awards Banquet included remarks from Dr. Elizabeth Kennedy, Missouri Western’s president, and performances by the Missouri Western Dance Company and a student jazz group under the direction of Bob Long, director of jazz studies. 

dancers on stage

Members of the Missouri Western Dance Company prepare to perform at the MLK Drum Major for Justice Awards Banquet Jan. 18.

Missouri Western State University is a student-centered learning community preparing individuals for lives of excellence through applied learning. Missouri Western is located in St. Joseph, Mo., and is committed to the educational, economic, cultural and social development of the region it serves. Visit