Saddleback College One Book, One College Event Culminates in Dialogue with Lacks’ Family

For Immediate Release: 
May 4, 2017
Saddleback College’s One Book, One College program centered around the book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, came to a close yesterday at a college-wide event featuring dialogue with two members of the Henrietta Lacks family. 

Over 500 students, faculty, staff, and community members were on hand to enjoy the event festivities including student art inspired by the book, hors d’oeuvres prepared by the Saddleback Culinary Arts program, music from the Saddleback Gala Combo, and dialogue and book signing with Alfred Carter, Jr. and Victoria Baptiste, grandson and great-granddaughter of the legendary Henrietta Lacks. 

Victoria, Henrietta’s great-granddaughter, shared, “It was a lovely and humbling experience to be so warmly welcomed at Saddleback College.  Everyone, students including, were so pleasant and made me feel as if I belonged.  Thank you all so much for helping us spread our family legacy by inviting us to come and speak to your awesome community at Saddleback.  Also, young people of Saddleback remember there's always an opportunity to be/do something great no matter your age!”

Bruce Gilman, professor of English composition and One Book, One College committee member, said, “Victoria Baptiste and Alfred Carter Jr.s’ visit to Saddleback College proved a fitting conclusion to a year of events celebrating The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  Our speakers’ timely message concerning purpose and responsibility was deeply appreciated by students, faculty, and staff.  Our college’s enthusiastic response to the book, coupled with the warm reception for Henrietta Lacks’ descendants, reaffirms our commitment to shared literacy and learning.”

Throughout the spring semester, students and staff participated in a series of events ranging from TED Talks, reading groups on the Quad, and panel discussions that allowed them to further discuss the issues and topics described in the book.  Dr. Tod A. Burnett, president of Saddleback College stated, “Yesterday’s capstone event for One Book, One College was superb.  The One Book, One College committee has done wonderful work and made a big contribution to our college-wide learning environment.  I thank this team of incredible educators and am reminded how very fortunate we are to have them on the Saddleback team.”

Students in writing and art classes participating in One Book, One College were awarded at yesterday’s event for their exemplary writing and art pieces. Reed Grable and Luke Hardy were presented with the Student Writing Awards.  As winner of the Creative Writing award, Reed produced a poem titled “A Message in Sequence” that intricately weaves emotionally expressive lines into a strand of DNA from Henrietta Lacks.  Selected for the Academic Writing award, Luke’s essay explores how socioeconomic disparities place many African Americans at a disadvantage in obtaining a quality education.  The student art winners were Allie May for her work in the 2D Design class, Laney Bahan for her work in the Color Theory class, and Noah Barrett for his work in the printmaking class.

 Located in Mission Viejo, Saddleback College provides quality higher education and training to the greater south Orange County community. Having served more than 500,000 students since 1968, Saddleback College offers more than 300 degree and certificate programs to help students reach their personal, career, and educational goals. For more information, please visit

Originally published May 4, 2017