Michigan Presbyterian Minister John Duley dies at 100

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TWP BATH. – John Duley has dedicated his life to building a better world, especially for those who have not had the chance to compete on a level playing field.

He marched for civil rights in the 1960s, advocated for non-traditional students at Michigan State University, advocated for fair housing in East Lansing, sparked a nationwide movement to service learning and developed the Mississippi All-Black College Student Education Program.

Then, after a 20-year stint as a Presbyterian minister at MSU, he founded the Greater Lansing Housing Coalition and created a unique scholars program in a low-income housing community in the East Lansing School District.

“He was willing to live on the edge and take risks, and when he saw something unfair, he worked with people to help them understand this injustice and make the necessary changes,” his daughter said, Judith Gardi. “He influenced people to come together, to work together and to make the world a better place.”

Duley died on July 15 at the age of 100. A celebration of his life is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday at the Okemos Presbyterian Church.

“He loved to laugh, he was sweet and fierce,” said Tom Schaberg, who worked with Duley on programming at Edgewood Village and consulted with him after Duley had to step down. “Here he is, 90 years old, reading books about the future and considering how technology could be used in the village. He was always open to new ideas.”

A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Duley aspired to be a farmer but was drawn to spiritual concerns and became a champion of social justice, his family said in an obituary.

Duley served 2.5 years as a US Army medic in World War II before being ordained a Presbyterian minister in 1948. He moved to East Lansing in 1962 to serve as campus minister at MSU and became a civil rights activist both locally and nationally.

Together with Dr. Robert Green, one of three black professors at MSU at the time, Duley created the East Lansing Human Relations Commission to advocate for fair housing for non-white people. The two joined university students to protest against the city’s housing laws.

Okemos resident John Duley stands in front of a car heading for the Mississippi in the mid-1960s. Duley and others helped the historically black Rust College perform better in school.

Duley and Green then created the STEP program at Rust College, in which MSU students mentored and guided Rust students.

“Through a six-week orientation, they taught enrichment classes so that these children understood and were able to master the basic classes and be successful,” Gardi said. “The students weren’t doing very well because they didn’t understand the basics.”

Duley is considered the “grandfather” of the service learning movement, in which students learn educational standards while tackling real-life issues through community service, Gardi said.

After retiring from MSU in 1982, Duley helped found the Greater Lansing Housing Coalition. He also created innovative and groundbreaking programming at Edgewood Village.

Schaberg, who met Duley through the Okemos Church, said the minister recruited him to help with the scholarship program, in which mentors worked with low-income students to pave the way for Higher Education.

This program has grown and evolved, and a network center and other programs have been added to Edgewood, said Schaberg, chairman of the board of Edgewood Village.

“We started working with any child on the property, providing after school tutoring to any child who wanted it,” he said. “They could do their homework, have a snack.”

Duley was instrumental in building a playground in Edgewood, which also has a prolific community garden and computer lab, he said. There are also mobile health clinics there, he said.

In 2001, Duley created the “Closing the Digital Gap” program to provide low-income residents with access to computers and the Internet.

Schaberg described Duley as a visionary who inspired like-minded people to join him in a cause.

“John was always thinking, always looking to the future,” Schaberg said. “It was never ‘we can’t do this because we don’t have this’. When a door didn’t open, we were looking for a window.”

Among Duley’s other causes during his long life: protesting the Vietnam War in the 1960s and circulating petitions to stop the production of nuclear weapons in the early 1980s.

In 2009, Duley received the George Romney Lifetime Achievement Award, given to those who consistently conduct their volunteer work at the highest level.

After:John Duley: 100 years in the making

MSU maintains the John S. Duley Endowment for Service Learning, which provides funding to advance the mission of the university’s Center for Service Learning and Civic Engagement.

To relax, Duley loved to sail and built a small sailboat, Gardi said. Inspired by a certain type of building he saw on a trip to the east coast, he took a building course, got all the lumber, and built a house in that style, he said. she declared.

Like any other project that needed to be tackled, Duley rolled up his sleeves and got to work.

“He never did it alone,” she said. “There have always been people in partnership with him.”

Services for Duley are managed by Watkins Brothers Funeral Homes in Laingsburg. The family said memorial contributions can be made on their behalf at Edgewood Village in lieu of flowers.

Contact Ken Palmer at kpalmer@lsj.com. Follow him on Twitter @KBPalm_lsj.


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