March 12, 2020


BUFFALO, NY – Canisius College has announced the 2020 recipients of its Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Awards.

The MLK award is presented annually to a student and non-student (faculty, staff or administrator) who demonstrates the ideals of Dr. King through the promotion of social justice, racial harmony, civil rights, human rights, nonviolence or advocacy for the poor.

This year’s recipients of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award are Herbert Gitego ’21, Fernando Astiz, PhD and Erin Thornton ’05.

Herbert Gitego ’21 is a digital media arts major at Canisius College. He worked on a holiday marketing project for St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy for the organization’s food giveaway and toy drive. Striving to be in the video production industry, Gitego uses his skills to shine a light on communities that would otherwise remain unheard and unseen.

Fernando Astiz, PhD, is a professor of teacher education at Canisius College. Astiz is engaged in connecting teaching partners with community partners who serve local and international underrepresented groups. She developed the Dual-language (English/Spanish) Read Aloud Program for Buffalo Public School 64, in which students were welcomed at Canisius’ library for read-aloud sessions. Mayor Byron Brown            presented Astiz with the 2013 Hispanic Heritage Award for her scholarship in the education field and her work with the Buffalo community.

Erin Thornton ’05 is an associate athletic trainer and instructor at Canisius College. She is an advocate for nonviolence and harmony through her responsibilities as an athletic trainer. Thornton has defused situations within racial divides that have affected some of the teams. As a result of her outward compassion for others, she is well respected by the student athletes, faculty and staff.

Honorees will be recognized during the Canisius College Spring Honors Convocation on Friday, May 15 from 2:00-3:00 p.m. in the college’s Montante Cultural Center.

One of 27 Jesuit universities, Canisius is the premier private university in Western New York. Canisius celebrates its sesquicentennial anniversary during the 2019-20 academic year, marking 150 years of Jesuit education and leadership in the city of Buffalo and Western New York. Visit for more information about Canisius’ milestones and celebratory events.