At a ceremony held Saturday, Bridgewater State University named its Institute for Social Justice after Martin Richard, the youngest victim of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.
In addition to the dedication of the institute, BSU officials, along with the Richard family and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, unveiled a sculpture of Martin in University Park.
The crowd, numbering in the hundreds and seated in the open and under tents in University Park, was comprised of friends and family of the Richards’, local and state officials, residents from across the state, and members of the BSU community.
In his remarks, Mayor Walsh spoke of Martin and the photo of him holding a sign asking for peace that went viral after the bombings. It turned Martin into a symbol, but now he’s more than a symbol, the mayor said. “His spirit is still moving people, it’s inspiring people to be their best,” he said.
After quipping that half of the Richard’s hometown of Dorchester was present for the ceremony, the mayor reminded the family: “There’s a lot of love on this campus, a lot of your friends are here today. Martin’s infectious energy touched many of us.”
The mayor concluded his remarks saying the naming of an institute that is dedicated to the betterment of others was a fitting tribute to the eight year old. “Martin Richard and his family have changed our city and out state for the better,” he said.
President Frederick W. Clark Jr. told those gathered, “We are truly honored to remember young Martin Richard on this day.”
The Martin Richard Institute for Social Justice, the president said, inculcates much of what BSU stands for.
“We believe social equity can only be achieved through educational opportunity, and service to others. That is our definition of social justice. We don’t just talk about social justice, we live it,” he said. President Clark then listed the many programs incorporated under the institute’s umbrella, many of them helping at-risk and marginalized children, both locally and globally.
“The Martin Institute is already transforming lives,” he said.
President Clark then took the Martin Richard Social Justice Pledge, vowing to support and expand the mission of the institute named in his honor.
President Emeritus Dana Mohler-Faria, who founded the institute, said, “This is an emotional day.”
“It is a day that brings a new chapter in Martin’s life,” Dr. Mohler-Faria said. “It is a day in which we begin to understand that his life and legacy will continue, that in his name this great university will do great things for people who are less fortunate.”
The final speaker was Martin’s father, William Richard, who recounted the years he and his wife, Denise, spent as Bridgewater students. Both husband and wife graduated in 1993. He then spoke about his son.
“I find some peace in knowing what kind of man he would have become,” Mr. Richard said.
He added that at first the idea of a statue of Martin placed at his alma mater struck him as unrealistic. That was an honor reserved for presidents and legendary athletes, he said.
Mr. Richard then told stories of Martin, exemplifying the young man’s kindness and generosity of spirit. Finally, he recalled a few years ago on a summer day how he and his family visited campus. They sneaked into Tillinghast Hall and then jumped the fences at the athletic fields where they played with a few baseballs they’d found in the dugout. In his memory, he said, is preserved an image of his late son sitting in the dugout.
“I think it was around that time that Martin told us he wanted to go to BSC,” Mr. Richard said. “So, a statue for Martin? Really? Absolutely.”
Victoria Guerina, creator of sculpture, also spoke, and musical performances were offered by the St. Ann Choir of Dorchester and Linda Chorney.
Gov. Charlie Baker was unable to attend the ceremony, however, he sent a citation in honor of the event and the naming of the institute after Martin Richard. Master of ceremonies Eugene Durgin recognized two special guests in the audience, former first lady of Boston, Angela Menino and former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis.
In closing the ceremony, Mr. Durgin imagined the thousands of students who on a daily basis will pass the statue of Martin Richard, and the benefit they will receive from his message and memory. “Inspiration,” he said. (Story and photos by John Winters, G ’11, University News & Media)