MELBOURNE, FLA. — Florida Tech will recognize two community leaders and celebrate the life and legacy of the pioneering civil rights leader at the university’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 2023 Commemoration.
The free public event, hosted by the Florida Tech Alumni Association, is from 7-8:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19, at the Gleason Performing Arts Center on the university’s Melbourne campus. Registration is requested.
The agenda includes a live rendition of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech by orator Leonard Ross and a keynote address by Gaye Montgomery, an attorney, mentor, business leader and generous benefactor whose father, Dr. Julius Montgomery, was the first African-American student to enroll at Florida Tech.
The evening will also feature two awards presentations: Alberta Wilson will receive the Dr. Julius Montgomery Pioneer Award, and Jennifer East will receive the Rev. Harvey L. Riley Bridge Builder Award.
The Dr. Julius Montgomery Pioneer Award is presented each year to a deserving candidate to honor their commitment and contributions to their community, and for the 45 years Wilson has called Brevard County home, she has done nothing but uplift the community.
It started with her decade of leadership as president of the Cocoa Rockledge Civil League, a high-visibility organization that focused on voter registration and education and get-out-the-vote activities. Its endorsements were often sought by candidates.
During her tenure as president, Alberta established the Marian Davis Scholarship Fund, which is credited with assisting several academically deserving minority students in getting funds to attend college.
Wilson later served as president of another critical organization, the Central Brevard County Branch of the NAACP. Among her accomplishments during her nine years in that role, she organized a charted, all-expenses-paid bus trip to Washington, D.C. so Brevard County high school students of color, and particularly males, could attend Barack Obama’s inauguration.
She helped start a College for Kids after-school mentoring program at Endeavour Elementary School, and later had the distinction of serving on the state Board of Community Colleges after being nominated by then Brevard Community College President Maxwell King.
East is receiving the Rev. Harvey L. Riley Bridge Builder Award, which recognizes success in community activism and improvement. A true polymath, she is comfortable with conceptual design, full-scale design, graphic design, illustration, photography, videography, web design and social media promotions.
She is co-founder of bUneke, a global educational nonprofit which allows her to direct and edit award-winning film and documentary work and produce live events. Among her recent projects is “Moving History,” a documentary East directed that offers an account of black history in Melbourne that follows the restoration and tradition behind the first black church in Crane Creek. Through the narratives of lifelong residents, powerful stories unfold and a glimpse of a tightly-knit, resilient community comes to light.
A former Los Angeles resident, East is experienced in acting, talent representation, writing, creating, directing, filming, on-set art direction and editing. She was the creative lead (graphic design, animation, video and illustration support) for United Space Alliance for the Aries IX rocket and space shuttle program.
The evening’s keynote presentation will be from Gaye Montgomery.
An attorney, mother of two and retired corporate executive who served with the Fortune 200 company Altria for 20 years, Montgomery is the founding member of Montgomery Compliance Law PLLC, a risk and compliance advisory practice, and a member of the Board of Managers of Grubb Properties LLC, where she chairs the firm’s Audit Committee.
Her passion, however, is building and nurturing The Women’s Compliance Collective, a global group of over 1,000 women in organizational compliance roles.
Before joining Altria, Montgomery was an associate at the law firm of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in New York City, which she joined after a judicial clerkship with a U.S. District Court judge. She received her undergraduate degree from Princeton University, after which she worked for three years as a systems engineer before leaving to attend Yale Law School, where she received her J.D. degree.
Montgomery holds professional certifications in cyber security oversight, information management, and European data protection and is admitted to practice law in the United States (New York, Virginia and the District of Columbia) and the United Kingdom.
She lives in Richmond, Virginia, where she taught as an adjunct professor at the University of Richmond Law School. A member of the advisory board for Florida Tech’s College of Psychology and Liberal Arts, Montgomery also currently serves as secretary of the Board of Trustees of Richmond Ballet.
Attendees are encouraged to come to campus early on the 19th to see the new “Breaking Barriers” mural in honor of Dr. Julius Montgomery on the third floor of Evans Library. Viewing is available from 5:45-6:45 p.m.