Affirmative action director honored at memorial service

Brittany Moffat

Members of Kent State’s faculty, students and friends and famiy gathered in memory of Willie Boston, director of the Equal Oppurtunity and Afrimative Action program at Kent State, in the Ballroom balcony Tuesday afternoon. Tracy Tucholski | Summer Kent St

Credit: DKS Editors

The Rev. Ronald J. Fowler remembers Clemon “Willie” Boston as “a climate changer” who changed the attitudes of everyone he worked with.

Boston, director of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action at Kent State, died last week of unknown causes at the age of 51. A memorial service celebrating his kindness and sense of humor was held yesterday morning at the Student Center ballroom balcony.

Fowler, who worked with Boston on an commission to make Kent State a more welcoming environment, said he felt that Boston’s gentle nature and laughter were the equivalent of a “gentle breeze on a cloudy day.”

The ballroom balcony was nearly full as Fowler led those in attendance in prayer before introducing Carla Davis, marketing communications director for the Akron-Summit County Public Library, as a guest soloist. The crowd was quiet as Davis offered her condolences to Boston’s family and friends before she sang “If I Can Help Somebody.”

Steve Michael, vice provost for diversity, said the size of the crowd was a “testament to how important this is” to the family Boston had gained while working at the university. He described Boston as soft-spoken and the “kind of man who always leaves you curious about him.”

Several of Boston’s colleagues shared memories of their time and work with him.

Cynthia Stillings, director of the School of Theatre and Dance, said she remembered Boston, who spent 16 years in New York City working with the Actors’ Equity Association, coming to a performance shortly after his arrival at Kent State in January 2007. She said a student working in the box office approached her after the show with an envelope from Boston, who had purchased a season subscription and made a donation to the program.

Stillings also mentioned that when Boston won the AEA’s Rosetta LeNoire award in 2007, he received three standing ovations.

Eric van Baars, a professor in the School of Theatre and Dance, read remembrances from several of Boston’s former colleagues in the AEA, many of which described his laughter, his love of shopping and his eclectic style.

Fowler said he had not had much opportunity to know Boston outside of their work on the commission but that Boston was a force on the commission even if he rarely spoke.

“He became an exclamation behind a statement that had already been made,” Fowler said of Boston’s contributions to the commission.

Several members of Boston’s family from South Carolina were present for the service, including his cousin Brenda Whitaker Gould, who said “he taught me to laugh.” Gould added that Boston’s elderly father, who could not attend, would have been touched to hear the kind words of his son’s friends and colleagues.

Fowler said Boston’s humor and his commitment to his work would be missed, even though he had been a part of the university for less than two years.

“Just when I was getting to know him, he was gone,” Fowler said.

Contact College of Education, Health and Human Services reporter Brittany Moffat at [email protected].