IN THE summer of 1968, amid the upheaval following the murder of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the College of the Holy Cross recruited 20 black students to pursue a liberal arts education on its Worcester campus. That act of racial outreach and social justice was the special project of Rev. John Brooks, the college’s visionary president. He not only offered the students a place at Holy Cross, but “mentored, defended, coached, and befriended’’ them, as journalist Diane Brady writes in her inspiring new book on Brooks and the promising black students he recruited.
One of those students - a lonely, angry seminary dropout from Pin Point, Ga., named Clarence Thomas - returned to his alma mater last week, where he accepted an honorary degree and described his gratitude to Brooks and Holy Cross for lifting him out of his despair.