Three individuals and one performing arts organization joined the Dayton Region’s Walk of Fame today at the 2019 induction ceremony held at Sinclair conference Center today. The Walk of Fame, located in Wright Dunbar includes over 180 Dayton individuals and organizations. Granite pavers are located on the sidewalks on both sides of West Third Street between Shannon and Broadway Streets and on Williams Street in Wright Dunbar
“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 are
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.
“It’s indeed a pleasure and a great measure of honor to be among individuals chosen for the Walk of Fame,” Gooding said.
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.
Lifelong Dayton resident John Gower called his hometown “probably the greatest place on the face of the planet.” He said it’s “the perfect size” for individuals to be able to have an impact locally and even globally.
“Anybody here can make anything happen,” Gower said. “If you want to make the world a better place, you start with your city.”
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.
Betsy Whitney, speaking for herself and her late husband Leon “Lee” Whitney, said the Dayton community “welcomed us with opportunities to serve” when they arrived in 1954. While Lee built up the insurance company started by Betsy’s father, both became active philanthropists and took leadership positions in numerous community organizations. “We have enjoyed every challenge along the way,” she said.
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.
Representing the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company were Ronita Hawes-Saunders, its chief executive officer, and Debbie Blunden-Diggs, chief artistic administrator and production director and daughter of DCDC founder Jeraldyne Blunden. Diggs said her mother “planted her feet in Dayton 50 years ago because she wanted this company here.” Even as DCDC performs at venues around the world, she said, “there’s no place like home for us.”