Lipscomb University

Christian Scholars' Conference

[Archives of the 2012 CSC]

Plenary Speakers

Lipscomb University proudly announces that it will confer an Honorary Doctorate of Laws upon veteran civil rights attorney Fred D. Gray in recognition of his remarkable achievements in civil rights legislation, the defense of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, and for his life long devotion to Christ and His church.

With a quiet demeanor, strong determination and secret commitment made in college, Fred Gray vowed, “to become a lawyer, return to Alabama, and destroy everything segregated I could find.” Gray began his legal career as a sole practitioner, less than a year out of law school, and at age twenty-four,  represented Mrs. Rosa Parks who refused to give up her seat to a white man on a city bus, the action that initiated the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Gray was also Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s first civil rights lawyer. This was the beginning of a legal career that now spans over 55 years.

Determined to right the wrongs he found in his native State of Alabama, Gray has been at the forefront of changing the social fabric of America regarding desegregation, integration, constitutional law, racial discrimination in voting, housing, education, jury service, farm subsidies, medicine and ethics, and generally in improving the national judicial system.

Fred David Gray, a native of Montgomery, Alabama and who lives in Tuskegee is in the general practice of law specializing in civil rights litigation. He was educated at the Nashville Christian Institute, in Nashville; Alabama State University and Case Western Reserve University. He is the senior partner in the law firm of Gray, Langford, Sapp, McGowan, Gray, Gray & Nathanson  P.C., with offices in Montgomery and Tuskegee, Alabama. 

He  is admitted to practice in the following Courts:  Supreme Court of Ohio, Supreme Court of Alabama, and U. S. District Court for the Middle, Northern & Southern Districts of Alabama, Supreme Court of the United States, and U. S. Court of Appeals for Fifth, Sixth and Eleventh Circuits.

Certain of his notable cases include City of Montgomery v. Rosa Parks; State of Alabama   v. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Many others may be found in most constitutional law textbooks including, but not limited to: Aurelia A. Browder, et al v. W.A. Gayle, et al (integrated the buses in the City of Montgomery); Gomillion v. Lightfoot, (laid the foundation for the concept of "one man one vote"); NAACP  v. Alabama, ex rel. John Patterson, Attorney General;  Dixon, et al  v. The Alabama State Board of Education; Williams v. Wallace (Court ordered State of Alabama  to  protect  marchers from Selma to Montgomery after being beaten on Bloody Sunday); William P. Mitchell, et al  v. Edgar Johnson, et al (one of the first civil actions brought to remedy systematic exclusion of blacks from jury service); Lee v. Macon County Board of Education (integrated all state institutions of higher learning under the Alabama State Board of Education, and 104 of the then 121 elementary and secondary schools systems in the state); Malone v. University of Alabama; Franklin v. Auburn University. He was counsel in preserving and protecting the rights of persons involved in the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study in 1972, the case of Pollard, et al v. United States of America.

One of the first African Americans to serve in the Alabama Legislature since reconstruction, Gray was also the first African American elected as president of the Alabama State Bar Association (2002-2003). Gray also served as the 43rd president of the National Bar Association. He is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation, American College of Trial Lawyers and International Society of Barristers. He served on many court appointed committees including in 2007 as a member of the Merit Selection of Appellate Judges Committee.

He is the recipient of numerous awards including the Charles Hamilton Houston Medallion of Merit from the Washington Bar Association; Harvard University Law School’s Charles Hamilton Houston Medallion; ABA’s Thurgood Marshall Award, and the Federal Bar Association’s Sarah T. Hughes Civil Rights Award. Gray has also been featured in many publications, radio and television interviews, and serves on many boards and organizations.

An author, Bus Ride to Justice, was released in February, 1995 and The Tuskegee Syphilis Study was released in May, 1998.  He also wrote The Sullivan Case: a Direct Product of the Civil Rights Movement, a review for Case Western Reserve Law Review.

Gray is the principal founder of the Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center, Tuskegee, Alabama, a 501(c)3 corporation, which serves as a memorial to the participants of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and educate the public on the contributions made in the fields of human and civil rights by Native Americans, Americans of African descent and Americans of European descent.

The Honorary Doctorate is the highest honor the university is privileged to bestow and expresses Lipscomb University’s proactive vision for integration at all university levels as “integral to the university’s mission.”


Miroslav VolfMiroslav Volf, Founder and Director of Yale Center for Faith and Culture and Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology, Yale University Divinity School, New Haven, CT. Miroslav Volf was educated in his native Croatia, United States, and Germany. He earned doctoral and post-doctoral degrees (with highest honors) from the University of Tübingen, Germany.

He has written or edited 15 books and over 70 scholarly articles. His most significant books include Exclusion and Embrace (1996; winner of Grawemeyer Award in Religion, and one of Christianity Today’s 100 most important religious books of the 20th century); After Our Likeness (1998) in which he explores the Trinitarian nature of ecclesial community; Allah: A Christian Response (2011), whether Muslims and Christians have a common God; and A Public Faith: On How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good (2011).

He is actively involved in many top-level initiatives concerning Christian-Muslim relations and is a member of the Global Agenda Council of the World Economic Forum.



Abraham Verghese

Abraham Verghese MD, MACP, is Professor for the Theory and Practice of Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Senior Associate Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine.

Verghese’s interest is in clinical skills and the bedside exam, both in its technical aspects, but also in the importance of the ritual and what is conveyed by the physician’s presence and technique at the bedside. This work interests him from educational and ethnographic points of view, especially as related to rituals and how they transform the patient-physician relationship.

As founding director of the Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, he brought the deep-seated empathy for patient suffering that had been honed by his previous experiences to his new role in the medical humanities. He gave the new Center a guiding mission, “Imagining the Patient's Experience,” to emphasize the importance of caring for the patient. He saw empathy as a way to preserve the innate empathy and sensitivity that brings students to medical school but which the rigors of their training frequently suppress.

Born of Indian parents who were teachers in Ethiopia, he grew up near Addis Ababa and began his medical training there. His early work in caring for terminal AIDS patients in Boston and eastern Tennessee created transformative insights from the deep relationships he formed and the suffering he witnessed and became the basis for his first work, My Own Country: A Doctor's Story. His other books include, The Tennis Partner: A Story of Friendship and Loss and Cutting for Stone, his first and current best selling novel. His writing has also appeared in The New Yorker, Texas Monthly, Atlantic, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.


ImmaculĂ©e IlibagizaHuddled in a cramped room for 91 days Immaculée Ilibagiza survived the 1994 Rwandan genocide, but emerged to discover her family brutally murdered. Overcoming immeasurable odds she eventually found it possible and imperative to forgive her tormentors and her family's murderers.

Anger and resentment were destroying her life and faith but rather than succumb to rage, Immaculée turned to prayer. Immaculée's faith empowered her to stare down a man armed with a machete threatening to kill and eventually address the ones who murdered her family, "I forgive you."

In 1998, Immaculée immigrated to the United States where she continues to work with the U.N. Her first book, Left to Tell; Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust (2006) quickly became a New York Times Best Seller, translated into seventeen languages. Her compelling story has also been made into a documentary, The Diary of Immaculée, and she was featured in Michael Collopy's Architects of Peace project, which has honored legendary peace makers like Mother Teresa, Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela, and the Dalai Lama.