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Donald Spencer

Donald Spencer receives a Founders Citation from President Robert Glidden in 2004 as Board of Trustees Chairman Bob Walter looks on

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OHIO mourns the loss of former trustee

Donald Spencer was a pioneer in education, civil rights, philanthropy


Donald A. Spencer, former Ohio University Board of Trustees chairman, teacher, real estate broker and civil rights activist, died Tuesday at 95.

Spencer, who was the first African American to chair the university's Board of Trustees, served on the library cabinet for the Bicentennial Campaign. He also served as chair of the Ohio University Libraries National Advisory Council.

In 1992, he and his wife, Marian, established the Donald and Marian Spencer Endowment for the African-American Library Collection at Ohio University, which expanded the collection of materials on African-American history, politics, art, language, literature, music and culture. In 2004, the university awarded him the prestigious Founders Citation, the board's highest honor.

The Donald A. Spencer Achievement Award was established in his honor to recognize the accomplishments of minority students at Ohio University and the Blackburn-Spencer Scholarship and Achievement Awards were also named in part for him.

"On behalf of the Ohio University community, I extend our deepest condolences to Donald Spencer's family," said Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis. "He was an extraordinary man who gave generously of his time, talent, and treasure to our university and our students. His dedication to education and the advancement of minority students will be lasting hallmarks of his legacy at Ohio University."

Spencer ran his own real estate firm, Donald A. Spencer and Associates, and also taught in the Cincinnati public schools system for 18 years. He earned both bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Cincinnati, where he founded the undergraduate chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.

A life member of the NAACP, Spencer was dedicated to public service as a former member of Avondale Community Council, City of Cincinnati Board of Housing Appeals, Friends of Cincinnati Parks, Cincinnati Association of Real Estate Brokers and the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce.

He also is a former board member of the YMCA, Cincinnati Boys Club, Mt. Zion Methodist Church, Ohio Council of Churches and Family Housing Developers. He and his wife, Marian, were awarded honorary degrees from Ohio University in 1994 for their longtime service.

"Donald Spencer made a significant impact on the landscape of Ohio University," said Tom Davis secretary to the board of trustees. "He was a man of great character, serving on OHIO's board of trustees from 1974 to 1983, and being elected by his peers as chair in 1979.  We are a better university as a result of the contributions that he made."

Spencer is survived by his wife and their two sons, Edward and Donald Jr.