Convocation Photo

Randye Jones leads William Penn students and faculty in singing "We Shall Overcome" during the William Penn Convocation Thursday morning at Penn Gymnasium.

OSKALOOSA — The struggles in life can lead to personal success — that is the message William Penn University students heard Thursday morning at the university's convocation.

Researcher and writer Randye Jones was the keynote speaker at the convocation. She used the life of Coretta Scott King — the widow of slain Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Martin Luther King Jr. — as an example of how overcoming obstacles leads to success.

Coretta Scott was born in 1927 in Alabama the third of four children. She lived on the family farm and worked from the age of 10 to 13 picking cotton. She grew up in a musical family, and although her parents never went beyond elementary school, Coretta graduated from high school in 1945 as valedictorian and went to Antioch College in Ohio.

"She learned that discrimination was not only limited to the South," Jones said.

Scott had studied education, but she could not perform her practicum in the public schools, but had to do the practicum in the college's associated laboratory school.

Scott graduated from college in 1951 and went on to pursue a graduate degree in music from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.

In order to pay for her education, Scott worked a housekeeping job and ate peanut butter sandwiches, Jones said.

In 1952, Scott met Boston College doctoral student Martin Luther King Jr.

"She didn't want to be a preacher's wife," Jones said. "She'd have to give up her singing career."

Scott and King were married in 1953. She helped King with the Civil Rights Movement.

"She never forgot her love of music," Jones said.

Coretta Scott King organized Freedom Concerts in major cities around the country to raise money for the Civil Rights Movement. The first concert was held on Nov. 15, 1964, and the concerts were composed mainly of spirituals. The concerts raised $50,000 for the Civil Rights Movement, Jones said.

Coretta Scott King died in 2006 and was buried by her husband's side, Jones said.

"Mrs. King's legacy is still present," Jones said.

"We shouldn't be afraid to struggle," Jones said. "Struggle leads to success."

Jones closed her speech by taking a page from Coretta Scott King's playbook — she sang "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," and then led everyone in Penn Gymnasium in singing "We Shall Overcome." Everyone in the gym held hands and followed Jones' lead in singing the Civil Rights anthem.

Herald Editor Duane Nollen can be reached by email at

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