The MLK Unsung Hero Awards are annually awarded to two UNC staff/faculty, department or community/corporate entity who have exemplified a steadfast commitment to inclusion. Through their everyday work and advocacy, these awardees have made significant contributions to social justice, equity, and diversity, and have made a positive difference in the lives of others at Carolina.


Ben Frey in his office

Benjamin Frey

In his “America’s Threatened Languages” course, American Studies Professor Benjamin Frey encourages students to apply real world social situations to better understand community development. Dr. Frey also applies his mastery of linguistics in the campus-wide “Cherokee Coffee Hour,” which he initiated in 2013 to help revitalize interest in Cherokee language.

For his work, Dr. Frey has been the recipient of the Carolina Postdoctoral Fellowship for Faculty Diversity and been recognized for his commitment to service from the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs.

Franklin Seymore

Franklin Seymore

A Zone Manager and valued member of the UNC Housekeeping team, Mr. Seymore has worked diligently with staff to appreciate diversity, build trust and an understanding of workplace expectations. A positive influence and calming force, he has been a bridge builder who encourages connections, promotion of understanding of others, and recognition of commonalities amongst his co-workers while reminding them to consider other points of view.

Mr. Seymore is a veteran that served in the United States Air Force as a Security Police officer. He enjoys volunteer work at local rest homes, assisting senior citizens.


Namee Barakat and Mohammad Abu-Salha

Namee Barakat and Mohammad Abu-Salha

Namee Barakat, father of Deah Bakarat, and Mohammad Abu-Salha, father of Yusor Mohammad, accepted the Unsung Hero Award on behalf of their slain children, Deah Barakat and Yusor Abu-Salha. A Memorial Award was established by UNC Chapel Hill and the Dental Foundation of North Carolina (DFNC) in their memory. The award goes towards supporting a student or group of students at the UNC School of Dentistry who plan a service project locally, nationally or internationally – an endeavor that Barakat and Abu-Salha devoted themselves to regularly with their humanitarian work.


2015 Unsung Heroes and MLK Award winners

Larry Hicks and Tiane Mitchell Gordon

Tiane Mitchell Gordon is Founder and Principal of Square One, a consulting practice with subject matter expertise in diversity and inclusion from a theoretical and operational perspective. She has worked with D&I as the Diversity Expert-in-Residence—consulting with staff and students enrolled in the Cultural Competence Leadership Institute. She has had a career-long history of developing effective partnerships and strategic alliances in for profit and not-for-profit organizations. Ms. Mitchell Gordon’s last corporate position was as Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer for AOL, LLC.

Larry Hicks is a recent retiree after serving nearly 30 years at Carolina. In his final role as Director of Housing and Residential Education, Larry championed issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion within his department and across the University. He and the housing staff established diversity, equity, and inclusion as core values for the department, encouraging staff and students to actively engage and challenge one another in exploring issues and initiatives. These accomplishments include a Multicultural Competence Committee, an Equity and Inclusion Professional Development plan for all staff, a Multicultural Advisor program for student staff and diversity advocates, frequent programs and presentations on issues of inclusion, modification of hiring practices to ensure more diverse applicant pools, the push to provide gender non-specific housing in the residence halls to assist LGBTQ students in acclimating to the campus environment, working with campus colleagues on international student engagement issues, and supporting the highly successful Tunnel of Oppression program hosted by students and assisted by staff and campus partners.