South Bronx Crusader to Speak at HWS – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

South Bronx Crusader to Speak at HWS

February 15, 1999

Geneva, NY — In conjunction with the 1999 Leo Srole Urban Studies Lecture, the urban studies program is hosting three events on Thursday, February 25. The Leo Srole Lecture will be delivered by the Rev. Martha Overall, rector of St. Ann’s Church in the South Bronx and one of the people featured in Jonathan Kozol’s book Amazing Grace. Overall will give a speech titled, “An Inner City on a Hill? New York City’s Mott Haven on the Brink of the Millennium,” at 8 p.m. in the Albright Auditorium at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

In 1988, Overall was working as a successful litigation attorney in New York and California when she decided to give up her career to become a priest. For the past six years, Overall has devoted her life to working in the South Bronx in what has been called one of the most diseased and dangerous communities in the Western world. Through St. Ann’s parish, she offers a series of outreach programs to local families such as operating an after-school center and offering daily meals. She is a graduate of Harvard University, New York University Law School, and Union Theological Seminary.

“Rev. Martha Overall is someone involved in making the world better every day. I believe she is a living saint,” says James L. Spates, professor of sociology at HWS, who regularly takes students to visit Overall’s parish in the Bronx. Spates and economics professor Pat McQuire take students to New York City as part of their “Two Cities” course. One of those students, Erin Jemison, William Smith senior, says Overall is an inspiration. “I think we all left St. Ann’s realizing that there are truly selfless people who work for something other than money.”

Prior to Overall’s speech, a painting called “Study of Stars,” created by Samuel Bak, will be dedicated to the Colleges. Bak was 12-years-old at the end of World War II, a survivor of the holocaust who was befriended at the Displaced Persons Camp in Landsberg, Germany, by Srole, who was then serving in the U.S. Army. They remained lifelong friends. Bak is now recognized as one of America’s greatest contemporary painters with an international reputation as the leading artistic interpreter of the Jewish Holocaust. The dedication will take place at 7:15 p.m. on first floor of the Warren Hunting Smith Library.

In addition, earlier in the day, Dr. Ernest Joel Millman of the Department of Psychiatry at Harlem Hospital Center in New York City will give a luncheon talk called, “Studies of Adult Mental Health in America Urban Contexts,” at noon in the Blue Room of the Scandling Center. Millman completed the mental health research started by Srole called, “Mental Health of a Metropolis,” which examines the prevalence of mental illness in urban areas as compared to rural communities.

Leo Srole taught at HWS between 1941-42 before moving to Columbia University, where he attained international recognition for his pioneering studies of the mental health of cities. In 1989, the HWS urban studies program began the Annual Leo Srole Urban Studies Lecture in his honor. Srole died in 1993 at the age of 85.

The events are free and open to the public.