Emory Report
December 8, 2008
Volume 61, Number 14



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December 8
, 2008
AIDS Quilt on Quad wraps up hope, action


For the fourth year in a row, the Emory campus commemorated World AIDS Day with “Quilt on the Quad,” presented by Emory Hillel Dec. 1. In marked contrast to the gray skies overhead, sections of The AIDS Memorial Quilt were unfurled on the Quad in a joyous display of color and patterns that also served as a somber reminder of the lives each of the 800 panels represented.

During the opening ceremony, keynote speaker and Emory alumnus Kenneth Cole, the designer, founder and CEO of Kenneth Cole Productions Inc., talked about his work as an activist and supporter of AIDS research. Cole was one of the first to use advertising campaigns to speak out about the issue of AIDS in 1985 at a time when little was said in the mainstream.

As current chairman of amfAR, the world’s largest HIV/AIDS research organization, Cole said that although a stigma still prevails around HIV/AIDS, “profound advances have been made during this journey…and I believe a cure is within reach.”

Rev. Jill Patterson Tolbert, campus minister for the Presbyterian Church-USA, also dedicated a panel for her brother, John Hunter Patterson, who died in 1996 “much too young” at the age of 41. “He is still remembered and he is still missed,” she said during the opening ceremony.

Tolbert said later that when she started at Emory last year, she was eager to get involved with Quilt on the Quad, and it gave her the motivation to put the finishing touches on the panel she had created with her husband and three young sons at the NAMES Project Foundation. The foundation, headquartered in Atlanta, curates the Quilt and also provides materials and assistance to people working to create the memorials for their loved ones.

Tolbert’s other brother suggested that she base the design for the quilt panel on a shirt that was specifically created for Hunter by Maria Sabina, a famous Mazatec medicine woman, in 1975.

Other siblings added notes to Hunter’s panel.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him,” Tolbert says. “But, it felt good to know that 100 years from now there will be something lasting and permanent that acknowledges and celebrates his life.”

Despite having to break down early due to weather, Quilt on the Quad was the largest display on any college campus and was the second largest in the world that day. Related events continued throughout the week, including the seminar “AIDS at 27: Turning Hope into Action.”

Hosting the largest display of the Quilt on a college campus is especially relevant today, says Daniel Sperling, co-chair of the event. “Having the Quilt here again really stresses the fact that there needs to be a movement to lower infection rates among the younger generations,” says Sperling, an Emory College senior. “And having Kenneth Cole here was really inspirational. His life shows that even if no one else is working for a cause that needs to addressed, you need to step up and take action.”