It is safe to say that the very heart of the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition is a commitment to public service. Advocacy, research, and education are the gears that drive the work of UACC. The rewards for this type of commitment are found in the advancement of urban Appalachians in all realms of life. Yet, it is with gratitude that we take stock of the recognition and awards bestowed on Core members of UACC. With more than forty years of public Service, Core member Michael Maloney was a co-recipient of the Berea College Public Service Award at this year’s convocation ceremony at Berea College.

Since 1979, Berea College has presented the Public Service Awards to people whose work has exemplified the ways Berea College values service rooted in Appalachia. The stated purpose of the award is to honor persons who in their daily lives and their service to humanity have exemplified the Berea Commitments and to honor practical service by persons in all walks of life. This year the award was presented to two recipients: Jane Stephenson for her work help Appalachian women overcome societal restrictions by opening pathways to education and careers. And Core UACC member Michael Maloney for his work in advocating on behalf of Appalachian migrants in the greater Cincinnati area and beyond.

Michael Maloney said that part of the significance of him winning this award is that it is the first time anyone has been honored in this way whose work has been centered on the urban Appalachian experience. As Maloney explained, “I am the first person to receive the award whose work was not specifically based down home. This is extremely important for the urban dimension of the Appalachian movement.” Indeed, the award is a statement to his work in advancing awareness of the central place urban Appalachians have played and continue to play in the broader Appalachian experience.

I asked Michael Maloney if he could reflect on achievements that stand out to him over his more than forty-year career in advocacy, education, and research. Maloney cited the fact that he is “the founding Director of the Urban Appalachian Counsel and convener of the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition. I taught Appalachian Studies at nearly all the area universities. I served as an editor for one of the most important textbooks in Appalachian Studies, and of course, there is what I consider to be my magnum opus: a demographic study called The Social Areas of Cincinnati.” This list of achievements would be more than enough, but the fact is, this serves as highlights of a career of service that includes more than can detailed in this article.

Hear more about Mike Maloney’s work by watching this interview from our Story Gathering Project.

The awards were given as part of the Convocation Ceremony at Berea College. Students at the college can get credit for attending convocation ceremonies, and Michal Maloney said this one was well attended even given the restrictions on attendance due to Covid-19 concerns. A luncheon followed the ceremony for immediate family and some key staff from the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center. Among the high points of the event was a presentation at the Berea College Archives in which the two award recipients were invited to give presentations on their work. Maloney said, “I got an opportunity to focus on my career as a community organizer, researcher, and teacher.”

Michael Maloney described the Berea College Public Service Awards as “the biggest honor I’ve ever received.” And Maloney has received quite a few honors and awards.  We should cite the Appalachian Studies Association’s James Brown/Cratis Williams Community Service Award in 2018 as one stand-out example from a long list of awards and honors. When I spoke to Michael Maloney, what he highlighted as two of his greatest achievements are his service to more than forty non-profits across greater Cincinnati and his teaching, which has touched the lives of thousands of people. It is his dedication to service, education, and advocacy on behalf of urban Appalachians that stands out to him, and this is the kind of dedication that deserves the recognition bestowed by Berea College.

Jane Stephenson was the co-recipient of the Berea College Public Service Award. Her work in empowering Appalachian women to find opportunities in education and employment has helped countless Appalachian women find their way beyond the restrictions and limitations built into ways of life that historically did not value the potential for women. In 1987, Jane Stephenson founded the New Opportunity School for Women to empower Appalachian women of Kentucky to overcome barriers in their day-to-day lives. The New Opportunity School for Women now provides everything from scholarships for continuing education to online workshops on health, wellness, and even book discussions.

Berea College is something of a central hub of Appalachian studies and Appalachian culture within the academic world. The Public Service Award is a singular honor. That the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition’s Core member Michael Maloney received this award is a powerful statement of his work and the long history of advocacy on behalf of urban Appalachians in greater Cincinnati. The Berea College Public Service Award not only honors the work of Michael Maloney, it shines a light on the role of urban Appalachia within the broader context of Appalachian life, culture, and history

Mike Templeton is a writer, independent scholar, barista, cook, guitar player, and accidental jack-of-all-trades. Check out his profile in UACC’s new Cultural Directory. He lives in downtown Cincinnati with his wife who is a talented photographer. They spend their free time walking around the city snapping photos. She looks up at that the grandeur of the city, while Mike always seems to be staring at the ground.

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