Dr. Neal Lester

ASU Project Humanities Founder and Director Dr. Neal Lester, an Ahwatukee resident, was recently recognized with two awards for his leadership and community service.

Lester last month received the Unity in the Community Service Award at the sixth annual “Unity in the Community” Black History Prayer Breakfast by the Holy Trinity AME Church in Mesa for his work with ASU Project Humanities. 

The Reverend Ozetta Kirby, pastor of Holy Trinity AME, who presented the award, recognized Lester for his ability to challenge individuals to reflect upon their previously held beliefs and commit to achieving greater social awareness.

 “He is a rare individual with the capacity to elicit true introspection in each of us because we all have some prejudices and must work toward eliminating them,” Kirby said.

Lester was also the featured guest speaker for the breakfast, which marked its year of convening people together for “unity, peace, justice, and brotherhood.” 

Lester discussed the need “to confront the ugliness of racial injustices across communities not just in February but all year.”

Lester framed his conversation around the “reality that injustice toward any individual and group is fundamental inhumanity.”

Dr. Kendra Hassan added, “Dr. Lester always reminds us to remember the great potential of humanity’s future by making sure we don’t forget our past. His lessons are laden with emotion such that you don’t know if you want to laugh or cry, but you will surely grow.”

Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke said after hearing Lester, “I felt empowered to better identify and walk a path of acknowledging and embracing people, their history and current story.”

Lester was also presented with the 2020 Living History Award by the Phoenix Chapter of The Links, the Phoenix Chapter of Jack & Jill of America, Inc., and the Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Gamma Mu Boule of Phoenix.

 The award recognizes distinguished citizens within the arts, sciences, and other disciplines, and seeks to expose Phoenix-area youth to these citizens and their contributions. 

Lester was specifically honored for his impact on the “Art of Academia” in the Greater Phoenix community and beyond. 

These two awards follow numerous other accolades recognizing the work of Lester and ASU Project Humanities in expanding its impact through engaging diverse communities in the practice of “talking, listening, and connecting around pressing humanities topics.”

Lester was the 2019 Martin Luther King Jr. Award recipient by both the City of Phoenix and the Town of Paradise Valley for his contributions “to creating more compassionate communities and improving the quality of life for people across Arizona.”

In 2019, Project Humanities provided clothing, toiletries, and other donations to over 4,000 adults experiencing homelessness in the Phoenix area through its Service Saturdays homeless outreach initiative.

Project Humanities challenges people to embrace respect, compassion, empathy, forgiveness, kindness, and self-reflection. 


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