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(NECN: Melissa Toupin, Worcester, Mass.) - An emotional Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas received and honorary degree at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester Thursday. Thomas, a 1971 graduate of the college is being recognized for his service to Holy Cross and his tenure on the Nations highest court. Thomas was one of 20 black students recruited to Holy Cross to provide them with opportunity.
"Academically, the then seemingly to rigid structure of the core requirements forced education on me rather than abandoning me to my own misguided devices," said Thomas.
A just released book titled "Fraternity" tells of Thomas' mentor, President Emeritus Rev. John Brooks, who helped bring the group to Holy Cross immediately following Dr. Martin Luther King's death.
"I think they felt the mantle of leadership quite heavily on their shoulders," said author Diane Brady. "A lot of them went on to become leaders in their society."
Brady says when Thomas came to Holy Cross in late 1960's Fr. Brooks guidance set him on a path that would one day lead to the supreme court. Fr. Brooks is also credited with mentoring Malcolm Joseph who would go on to become an Air Force physician.
"Father Brooks has been central to all the accomplishments and to a life long experience," said Joseph.
The life lesson learned by Joseph, Thomas and the others are now being taught at the college they attended more than 30 years ago. History professor Father Tony Kuzinewski says he hopes it puts things in perspective for students.
"I hope they get a sense out of the book that justice is always a struggle," said Kuzinewski. "That it doesn't come easily. That nothing worth while is just handed to you on a plate. That you have to work for better results."