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University of Iowa News Release

Sept. 18, 2003

Skorton To Speak At Human Rights Breakfast

University of Iowa President David J. Skorton will deliver the keynote address at the 20th Annual Human Rights Awards Breakfast, hosted by the Iowa City Human Rights Commission on Thursday, Sept. 25, at 7:30 a.m. in the Richey Ballroom at the Iowa Memorial Union. Three of the five award winners are affiliated with the University of Iowa. Winners were chosen for their significant contributions to human rights in the Iowa City area.

Leonard Sandler, University of Iowa law professor and director of the College of Law's Law Clinic, will receive the Isabel Turner Award, which is given for significant contributions to human rights in the Iowa City area by an individual. Sandler is being recognized for numerous works to improve the lives of persons with disabilities in Iowa City, Johnson County and the state of Iowa. These include a three-year project to make Hickory Hill Park accessible and assisting with the design and construction of an accessible home using universal design principles.

John-Paul Chaisson-Cardenas, a graduate student in the UI School of Social Work and newly appointed Director of Latino Affairs for the state of Iowa, will receive the Rick Graf Award, which recognizes the long-term commitment of an individual, business, or individual with a service organization, to a specific cause or for the benefit of a specific group of persons. For the last decade, Chaisson-Cardenas has been an advocate for Latino/as and other culturally and linguistically diverse communities in the Iowa City area and across the state. His projects include an annual conference, "Strenghtening & Valuing Latino Communities in Iowa."

Gayane Torosyan, a graduate student in the UI School of Journalism and Mass Communications and producer with WSUI, the university-affiliated public radio station, will receive the International Award, which acknowledges significant contributions to human rights in the global community. Torosyan has initiated and hosted numerous radio programs focusing on human rights issues. In the past she has worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Armenia developing small business grants for refugee families.

Rita Offutt will receive the Person in a Service Organization Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to human rights by an individual in a service organization. Offut is being recognized for her commitment to the homeless and low-income population as well as the mentally ill. She is the director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Johnson County as well as the Homeless Coordinator for the Star Program, which focuses on providing employment services and housing to homeless families.

Thai Flavors will receive the Business Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions by a business to human rights. In addition to excellent food, Thai Flavors dishes up community polls on the issues of the day. The restaurant designates Tuesdays as "Community Days" and donates 20 percent of the day's income to a non-profit organization in Iowa City. Since it opened, Thai Flavors has donated almost $9,000 to Iowa City nonprofits.

Tickets for the breakfast are $15 each. A limited number of reduced price tickets are available. Tickets can be purchased at City Hall, 410 E. Washington St. at the information desk, Treasury Department and/or office of Heather Shank, Human Rights Coordinator. For more information contact Heather Shank at 319-356-5022 or

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACT(S): Media: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011, Program: Heather Shank, 319-356-5022,