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Winston Churchill Doby: Champion of Equity and Justice

Royce Hall

January 23, 2012

 

On behalf of the entire UCLA family, I want to welcome everybody here today. 

Many thanks for being here and demonstrating by your presence just how much love and respect there is for Winston Doby here at UCLA … and throughout the greater Los Angeles community.

I want to extend the deep condolences of my wife Carol and myself -- along with the entire Bruin family -- to Linda, Monica, Chris, and the entire Doby family. 

We’re here today to celebrate the inspiring life and enduring legacy of our dear friend and colleague Winston Doby.

When Winston’s parents – Laura and Albert – named their eighth and youngest child Winston Churchill Doby … back in February 1940 … the United Kingdom was already at war with Nazi Germany.
 
But Winston Churchill had not yet become Prime Minister.  Churchill would assume that office three months later and go on to lead Great Britain through the cruel crucible of World War II.

Sort of makes you wonder what Laura and Albert knew in February 1940 that the rest of the world didn’t know. 

I mean they must have had a keen eye for recognizing a courageous leader when they saw one.  By naming their son after Winston Churchill, they placed a heavy burden of expectation on his shoulders.

Fortunately for our friend Winston -- and for all of us -- Winston’s shoulders were as strong as they were broad. I suppose you could say he was destined for leadership from birth.

Shakespeare wrote: “Some men are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” 

I believe Winston Churchill Doby was born great, but he also worked hard to achieve greatness, and through his leadership and example he managed to thrust a degree of greatness upon those around him.

It really is remarkable that someone so integral to UCLA’s success over the past 40 years might never have been a Bruin at all -- if not for the persistence of a high school track coach.

It’s true.  Back in 1958, Winston was all set to attend Compton College. But Bill Thayer, Winston’s mentor and track coach at Fremont High School, had other ideas.  With just one week left in the school year, Coach Thayer drove Winston to our campus. 

He was intent on convincing the UCLA track coaches that Winston would excel, academically and athletically, as a Bruin. He was right about that, of course.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

Winston enrolled at UCLA and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree, a master’s, as well as a doctorate in education. And for good measure, in 1961 he set UCLA’s triple-jump record -- with a leap of 48 feet and three-quarters of an inch.

Now that I think about it given his athleticism it’s no wonder Winston always seemed to be one step, and sometimes a giant leap, ahead of everybody else.

In 1968, Winston started his illustrious career at UCLA as an assistant track coach.  Just two years later, as director of special education programs, he established our Academic Advancement Program.  AAP is now a national model for providing support services to college students from historically underserved populations.

For nearly four decades, Winston helped to mold UCLA into a much better -- and much more accessible -- university. He was appointed vice chancellor for student affairs in 1981, and he went on to become our longest-serving vice chancellor. 

In his two decades in that role, Winston made a major impact on generations of students. And yes, UCLA changed Winston’s life and career.  But Winston also changed UCLA in profound ways, and in the process he changed the lives and careers of many thousands.

Winston was, above all else, a principled leader.  A man of unquestioned integrity. Winston was solidly steadfast, remarkably resolute, and consistently compassionate.  A true gentleman, dignified yet approachable, Winston spoke softly but carried a big heart. 

He believed deeply that those who were disadvantaged – through no fault of their own – deserved extra attention and support, and that by extending a helping hand everyone benefits. 

For Winston, the underdog was always top-of-mind. Two of his abiding concerns -- two issues that motivated him and propelled him his entire life -- were equity and justice.  Winston summed it up very well himself in an interview several years ago.  Here’s what he said:

"I hope that when people think of me they will remember me as one who remained committed to the campus's quest for greatness and committed to ensuring that this quest for greatness included a commitment to equity and justice."

Make no mistake:  Winston Doby will be remembered as a fearless and peerless advocate of equity and justice.  His clear and courageous voice will be missed -- but he will never -- never -- be forgotten.

His greatest contribution may have been his impact on UCLA’s leadership in diversity, which could not have happened without his tireless efforts and his ability to make a case for access without polarizing polemics, but with logic, facts, and persuasive reasoning.

Through his efforts, thousands of young African Americans chose UCLA, and were able to not only attend but to thrive here.  They graduated and went on to make a difference across a broad range of fields and endeavors in their communities and beyond.

Nothing demonstrated and symbolized Winston’s devotion to diversity, equity, and justice more than the Black UCLA Alumni Association’s Legacy Scholarship Program -- which was his brilliant brainchild.

It was a visionary way to address issues of access and diversity in the face of stringent legislative constraints. What others saw as impassable roadblocks and insurmountable barriers, Winston saw as opportunities for progress -- as milestones on the long march toward equity and justice. 

His greatest gift perhaps was his ability to motivate those around him to overcome hurdles by following “the better angels of our nature.”  

On the eve of his 75th birthday, Sir Winston Churchill declared:

“I am prepared to meet my Maker.  Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.”

Something tells me the meeting between Winston Churchill Doby and his Maker must have been a much more pleasant encounter.

But I’m also pretty sure that before too long Winston was asking -- politely but firmly -- to review His admissions policies in the interest of greater diversity, equity and justice. 

 

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