Warm homecoming for Justice Alan Page in Minneapolis
Wide-eyed students at Justice Page Middle School in Minneapolis packed the school’s auditorium, clapping and cheering loudly Monday morning as Justice Alan Page — their school’s namesake and a Minnesota icon — appeared on stage.
The school held a celebration ceremony for Page, who recently was named one of seven recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. On Friday, the retired Minnesota Supreme Court justice and Minnesota Vikings Hall of Famer was presented with the award in Washington, D.C.
Page received the medal based on his career accomplishments and charitable work through the Page Education Foundation, which has given out more than $15 million in scholarships to nearly 7,000 Minnesota students of color in the past 30 years.
At Monday’s school celebration, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey presented a proclamation from Gov. Mark Dayton declaring Nov. 19 as “Justice Page Day.”
In addition, officials launched a new education program modeled after the Page Education Foundation’s program for high school graduates. The new Junior Page Scholar Program will focus on academic excellence, leadership and community service. School leaders announced 17 Justice Page Middle School students who have been selected as Junior Page Scholars. They will enjoy monthly lunch meetings with Page, and will visit various colleges.
Six of the newly-named junior scholars joined Page on stage, and interviewed him about his prestigious award, which he wore around his neck.
Asked how receiving the medal impacted him, Page said that “recognition for good things you have done is good.”
He added: “It doesn’t hopefully change who you are and what you do.”
Page told the students that in accepting the Presidential Medal of Freedom, he felt it was important to represent his ancestors who entered the country as slaves, the students, and those who came before him and were honored for the good work they’ve done.
The stoic judge became emotional when answering a question about his late wife, Diane Sims Page. A student asked him what Sims Page would have thought of his receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Page choked on his words and said: “She would be over the moon. She would be so proud of me.”
Page joins a small list of Minnesotans to receive the Medal of Freedom. Others include former Vice President Hubert Humphrey, former Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger and singer-songwriter Bob Dylan.
He served 22 years on Minnesota’s highest court, and was its first black member.
Faiza Mahamud • 612-673-4203