Three individuals and one performing arts organization will join the Dayton Region’s Walk of Fame at the 2019 induction ceremony in September, Wright Dunbar, Inc. officials announced Wednesday, April 24.
They are Jessie Gooding, John Gower, Betsy and Lee Whitney and the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company.
“We have another year of outstanding inductees. They are all excellent examples of the exceptional people who make this area a great place to live and raise a family,” said Harry Seifert, president and CEO of Wright Dunbar, Inc.
This year’s inductees will be honored at a luncheon at Sinclair College on Thursday, Sept. 26th. Tickets and sponsorships for this event are available online.
Jessie Gooding (1926-)
One of the Dayton region’s foremost civil rights leaders, Jessie Gooding was born and raised in Minden, La. After serving in the segregated U. S. Army, he studied at Wilberforce University and became a chemist at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Witnessing—and experiencing—discrimination in the workplace, Gooding established equal employment opportunity and sensitivity training, which became mandatory in the Air Force in the 1960s. He also advocated for the Air Force to recruit top science and engineering students from historically black colleges and universities. Gooding is the longest serving president of the Dayton chapter of the NAACP (1982-2002.) Under his leadership the Dayton NAACP increased voter registration and pressed for reforms to end discrimination in education, employment, housing and law enforcement. He is co-author with Rosalind Vera Osinubi of Freedom and Justice for All: My Life and Dayton Civil Rights History.
John Gower (1953-)
John Gower is a life-long Dayton resident who has devoted his career as an urban planner to preserving Dayton’s history and making it a more enjoyable place to live. His advocacy for Dayton began as a student at the University of Cincinnati’s School of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning, when he volunteered weekends in Dayton to board up abandoned homes in his Dayton View neighborhood. He has worked as Dayton’s downtown planner, director of community development, urban design coordinator, and most recently as reimaging strategist. The Living City Project he led has been called a catalyst for revitalizing downtown housing. He led architectural preservation efforts that resulted in the city’s Historic District Zoning and Landmarks Commission. His preservation advocacy continues even in retirement, and he has been a leading advocate for restoring the downtown Dayton Arcade.
Betsy and Lee Whitney (1930-, 1930-2018)
Betsy and Lee Whitney have been exemplary leaders in arts, social services, history and business organizations. Born in Yellow Springs, Betsy Baldwin met Leon “Lee” Whitney in college at Ohio Wesleyan. They married in 1953. Lee joined his father-in-law’s insurance company, which grew to become Baldwin and Whitney with Lee Whitney as president. The Whitneys have been generous with their talents and resources. A past president and board chair of the YWCA, Betsy served on boards and/or fundraising committees for the Dayton Art Institute, Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, Dayton Visual Arts Center, Human Race Theater Company, Victoria Theatre Association, Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, Dayton History, Leadership Dayton, Dayton Foundation and Wright-Dunbar Inc. Lee served as president of Dayton Children’s, Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, Downtown Dayton Partnership and the YMCA, and as a board member of the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance, United Theological Seminary, and Westminster Church. Through his countless volunteer hours at Carillon Historical Park. He saw the need for a picnic shelter for schoolchildren. The Whitney Pavilion there now proudly serves visitors of all ages. Both Whitneys served on additional nonprofit boards and committees too numerous to list here.
Dayton Contemporary Dance Company
Nationally and internationally acclaimed local group on the dance stage and in film, DCDC has been a recognized cultural amenity in the Dayton arts scene for over 50 years. Few individuals or arts organizations in the region have represented Dayton on a larger scale. DCDC represents the Dayton region around the world. In this decade it has toured in Chili, China, Russia and Kazakhstan. PBS featured DCDC in the 2007 documentary “Dance in America: Dancing in the Light.” The film documentary “Sparkle,” which featured DCDC dancer Sheri “Sparkle Williams,” was selected to screen at Silverdocs, America’s largest and most prestigious documentary film festival in 2012. DCDC won the prestigious 2016 “Bessie” Award for Outstanding Revival for its performance of “Rainbow ‘Round my Shoulder” at the David H. Koch Theater in New York. DCDC was founded by Jeraldyne Blunden (1940-1999,) who was inducted in the Walk of Fame as an individual in 1999.
About the Walk of Fame and Wright Dunbar, Inc.
Since its inception in 1996 as a part of the City of Dayton’s bicentennial celebration, the Dayton Region’s Walk of Fame has recognized individuals and groups for their outstanding and enduring personal or professional contributions to the community, nation and the world. The Walk of Fame honors them by setting memorial stones in the sidewalks of Dayton’s historic Wright-Dunbar District. The stones can be enjoyed year-round on West Third Street between Broadway and Shannon and on North and South Williams Streets.
Wright Dunbar, Inc. a private non-profit organization, serves as a catalyst for economic development on West Third Street and manages the Walk of Fame as part of its mission in Dayton’s historic West Third Street Corridor in the neighborhood of Wilbur and Orville Wright and Paul Laurence Dunbar.