Oakland University president has special connection to MLK Jr.

Before she was the president of Oakland University and before she earned her medical degree and charged into corporate America, Dr. Ora Hirsch Pescovitz was among the tens of thousands in the crowd that marched on Washington.

The daughter of a prominent faith leader, Hirsch's dad had a special relationship with Martin Luther King Jr. It was a relationship that would mold her for years to come.

"You know, I do remember thinking it was history in the making," said Hirsh, thinking back to MLK's I Have a Dream speech. "(It was an) extremely powerful message for me and have remained an important part of every single job that I've had ever since."

Hirsh's father Rabbi Richard Hirsch used to host MLK in his office when the civil rights leader would make trips to Washington D.C., stopping on Massachusetts Avenue.

"And in fact, in Washington and in my dad’s office he drafted the 1964 Civil Rights and the 1965 Voting Rights Act," she said.

It was a year earlier when Hirsch would attend King's famed speech. 

"I remember thinking about The Dream and what The Dream meant and that it was powerful to have a dream of an idyllic future," she said, "and that in the future people would be equal and free and that’s what I remember that life would be better for everyone."

Now the leader of a major university in Michigan, she says she channels King's message wherever she's gone.

It's especially relevant in the field of education, where race intersects with learning opportunities everywhere.

"In spite of the fact that we cannot recruit on the basis of affirmative action, we are very successful in recruiting underrepresented students and students who are underserved," she said.

She added that her work towards King's goal doesn't stop at her job either.

"I’ve made several donations to try to do that. I made one donation in my parents honor, specifically for racial and social justice. Really, specifically, in honor of exactly MLK's dream, and that really was to recruit and retain faculty, underrepresented faculty, so that our students could see faculty who looked like them."