Students accompany Detroit honorees to Churchill Fellows Weekend for once-in-a-lifetime educational experience

 Cornerstone’s co-founder and former CEO William Clark Durant III, was inducted into the Association of Churchill Fellows during the March 24, 2018 Churchill Fellows Weekend at the National Churchill Museum on the campus of Westminster College, along with four other prominent leaders, including Mort Harris of Bloomfield Hills, co-founder of Detroit’s American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc.

Cornerstone Health + Technology High School students selected for their academic excellence and interest in history – 11th grader Gevon Clemons and 12th grader DaLayna Mitchell, both from Detroit ­– had the opportunity to accompany Durant and Harris for the Churchill Fellows Weekend, an annual event where a national expert on Churchill delivers the Enid and R. Crosby Kemper Lecture, and new Churchill Fellows are inducted. Cornerstone Health + Technology Principal Jared Davis and Washington-Parks Academy Principal Ricardo Martin also accompanied Durant, Harris and the students.

The Association of Churchill Fellows, founded in 1969, is an honorary society of people dedicated to the development and use of the National Churchill Museum at Westminster College, where Sir Winston Churchill delivered his historic “Iron Curtain” speech in 1946, which started the “Cold War” with what was then the Soviet Union. Past Fellows inductees include Churchill’s grandson, Winston Churchill; Walter Cronkite; President Dwight D. Eisenhower; Sir David Cannadine; Lady Mary Soames; British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher; Sir Martin Gilbert; International Churchill Society Chairman Laurence Geller; and the Right Honorable Earl Mountbatten of Burma.

Durant is well-known throughout Michigan where he currently serves as president of the New Common School Foundation and is the co-founder of Cornerstone Schools in Detroit, which serves more than 3,400 students. He is a former president of the Michigan State Board of Education (1994-1999) and currently serves on the Coalition for the Future of All Detroit School Children.

“I am honored beyond measure to have been inducted into the Society of Churchill Fellows at Westminster College and the National Churchill Museum, alongside my 98-year-old dear friend Mort Harris, a genuine World War II Air Force pilot hero in the European theatre,” said Durant.

“World War II was about a relentless fight for freedom against a well-armed enemy. At the outset, a successful outcome was uncertain. Churchill’s voice gave us hope. His courage was contagious. I am highly honored to be named a Churchill Fellow and, as a native Detroiter, it was a joy to have two Detroit students travel to Fulton with me and a gift to share my World War II experiences with them,” said Harris, a World War II veteran who flew 33 combat missions, was shot down twice and is pictured with fellow pilots in Life Magazine as a part of the flying squadron which first bombed Berlin.

His Excellency Ron Dermer, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States, delivered this year’s lecture on the topic of “Churchill and Israel” in the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury, a 17th Century Christopher Wren church in London that was bombed in 1940 during the German blitzkrieg at the start of World War II and re-dedicated in 1969 at Westminster College in Missouri to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Churchill’s now-famous speech.

“The two students and two principals who accompanied me from the Cornerstone schools had a rare treat to learn of the historical importance and current relevance of Winston Churchill at the very location of his historic address in 1946, given in the presence of President Harry S. Truman,” added Durant. “They also learned firsthand from The Hon. Ron Dermer, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States and a new Churchill Fellow, of the great support given by Churchill to the Jewish people in their struggle to create the state of Israel and in the continuing battle against anti-Semitism.”

Said Mitchell, “My experience during the Churchill Fellows Weekend was truly amazing. The knowledge I gained on this trip will stay with me beyond high school. Learning about Winston Churchill has inspired me to work harder, help motivate others and make a difference in the world. Israeli Ambassador Dermer is a remarkable individual and an incredible speaker. I was honored to hear his lecture, as well as meet a World War II veteran, Mr. Mort Harris, who shared with me details of his journey throughout the war.”

In addition to Durant, Dermer and Harris, Sam Fox, former U.S. Ambassador to Belgium, St. Louis business leader and philanthropist and Neal F. Perryman, ’88, a Westminster College alumnus (Kappa Alpha) and a member of the prestigious Lewis-Rice law firm in St. Louis, also were recognized.