PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Friends, family, and several local leaders gathered Sunday to honor the life of Michael S. Van Leesten. 

The Rhode Island College alum was a standout basketball player during his time at the school.  

He scored over 1,900 points and set the school’s all-time rebounding record, which still stands today according to RIC’s website.  

However, Leesten also had a substantial impact off the court. After graduating from R.I.C. in 1965, Leesten joined Dr. Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, who traveled to southern states promoting the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

“I’ve come to realize through all of these different accolades and titles and different jobs my dad has held, that at the end of the day, the element about all of this, is about helping others.” Said Jordan Van Leesten, the son of Michael Van Leesten.

Following his work with the Conference, Michael Van Leesten went on to serve with several local community groups, such as the Opportunities Industrialization Center in Providence, and the Rhode Island State Board of Regents, which helps oversee public education in R.I. 

“He understood how to bring communities together in a way that really mattered.” Said Rhode Island Governor Dan Mckee, who was among the many public officials at the ceremony. 

“A force for good in our city and our state…he lived his life in dedicated service to his community and with an unparalleled passion for the pursuit of equality, justice and unity.” Said Rhode Island Congressman David Ciciline. 

Aside from his work in the community, Leesten also earned three honorary doctoral degrees from Rhode Island College, the University of Rhode Island and Roger Williams University.