Burns & McDonnell – Diversity Matters


Bishop-McCann needed to find a speaker that would inform and inspire Burns & McDonnell’s group about the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The speaker would need to be of the caliber of their previous speaker, Dr. Claiborne Carson, Director of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute. If possible, they wanted to find a new twist on the story everyone thinks they know while having the message touch people’s hearts in a very personal way.


Civil rights activists, Mary Liuzzo Lilleboe and Geneva Craig, were brought together after the murder of Mary’s mother in 1965 by the Ku Klux Klan. One white woman—whose mother was a civil rights activist—and one black woman—who witnessed violent demonstrations in the 1960’s—worked with MLK, Jr., and embraced his message. They came together to bring their emotional stories to light.

Mary Liuzzo Lilleboe has been immersed in the Civil Rights Movement since her mother, Viola Liuzzo, an activist in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s, was murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan for her efforts. Viola Liuzzo traveled to Alabama in March of 1965 to help the Southern Christian Leadership Conference—led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—with its efforts to register African-American voters in Selma. Not long after her arrival, Liuzzo was murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan while driving a black man from Montgomery to Selma. She was the only known white female killed during the Civil Rights Movement.

To get a deeper understanding of her mother’s journey, Lilleboe traveled extensively through the South to meet those who shared the final days of her mother’s life. Lilleboe shared those personal stories and her unique perspective of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement.

Geneva Craig grew up in the South during the time of segregation in Selma, Alabama. She was an active demonstrator in the Civil Rights Movement witnessing violent demonstrations, including the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” on March 7, 1965. Craig shared how she embraced the advice Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave her to help accomplish anything she wanted to do.


“Mary and Geneva were awesome! They touched many hearts and souls. We are so fortunate that they agreed to share their time with us. Many thanks to you too for helping to make it happen.”

Michelle Word, Principal, Diversity Manager, Burns & McDonnell

One white woman and one African American woman, who have become dear friends through their journey, showed this group the power of love in action. Their warmth and their words reminded the group that men and women everywhere, regardless of color or creed, are equal members of the human family.

These two women made a lasting impression and left the group with this powerful thought:

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why rights, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Words cannot express what an extraordinary experience the Burns & McDonnell MLK event was. I want to thank you for this opportunity. You do an amazing job—this turned out to be a perfect pairing. Amazing! P.S. Burns & McDonnell made a donation in my mother’s name for a nursing scholarship at Wayne State University. My mom was attending nursing school there when she was killed. What a beautiful surprise!”

Mary Liuzzo Lilleboe
Burns & McDonnell Chairman and CEO Ray Kowalik welcomes Mary Liuzzo Lillebo and Geneva Craig. BMC speaker for MLK corporate event.
Mary Liuzzo Lilleboe has been immersed in the Civil Rights Movement since her mother died. Speaker, MLK, Burns & McDonnell
BMC Speaker Bureau, Burns & McDonnell, Martin Luther King

Diversity Matters was last modified: July 28th, 2020 by Devin Carver

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