Duane RobertsThe Kalamazoo Community Foundation has administered the Duane Roberts Memorial Scholarship since this noted People’s member died about 25 years ago. As an endowed scholarship, its principal is left untouched and only accumulated interest funds at least two $1200 scholarships per year to minority graduates of Kalamazoo Public Schools’ with college plans to advance social justice. Both prospective Bachelors and Masters candidates may apply to supplement tuition from The Promise.

Duane’s scholarship was established after his death in October 1989. Sufficient interest did not accumulate until 1993 when the first scholarships were granted. In 1994 People’s Church held a Memorial Auction, in what is now Room 9, with the theme “A Pound of Something” for items auctioned there. About 40 people had great fun bidding on each other’s contributions to raise $1,372 that augmented the scholarship principal. Generous donations continue to be accepted by the Foundation in Duane’s name, with our Social Justice Committee designating the March 8 special collection from our current congregation to demonstrate on-going appreciation of his efforts.

As president of the NAACP’s Metropolitan Kalamazoo Branch for the years 1965–66 and 1973–76, Duane’s activism in the federal Kalamazoo school-desegregation case was documented just five years ago in the Kalamazoo Valley’s Museum magazine, Museography. WMU awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1980. Duane Lennox Roberts also consistently attended Kalamazoo Public School Board meetings as one concerned citizen for 30 years from the 1950s–1980s. He became an elected Board member a few months before his death, and he received the Irving S. Gilmore Lifetime Achievement STAR Award posthumously in 1990.

A life-long bachelor, Duane was the on-site loving uncle for every R.E. kid at People’s. Dave Curl has rounded up several photos of Duane to introduce him to those who never met him or to whom his is only an historic name. Those images may also rekindle fond memories among those who were privileged to know him.

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