Matthew Boaz is a national
leader in diversity, equity and inclusion. Having served
most recently as Chief Diversity Officer at Wright State
University, Boaz brings with him to Toledo a set of old
school values and excellence in creating equity, fairness,
justice and equal opportunity in organizational
On February 25, Boaz will
become the City of Toledoís new director of Diversity and
Inclusion, serving as an important component in Mayor Wade
Kapszukiewzís strategic effort to place highly talented and
diverse individuals in his senior leadership cabinet.
I spoke with Boaz about
his credentials, personal perspective and leadership
formation as he prepares to bring his skills to northwest
Ohio to assist in helping our city to thrive.
First of all, welcome to Toledo. I hear that you are from
Iím from a small town called Van Wert, Ohio, a very rural
setting between Lima, Ohio and Fort Wayne, Indiana. I was
there the first 18 years of my life and I left immediately
after high school for the US Navy where I spent four years.
Following my four years of service in the Navy, I spent the
better part of eight years in Bowling Green obtaining a
bachelor and masterís degree, and actually in between my
undergrad and masterís I worked at Lucas County Children
Yes. So, Iím coming back to Toledo, which is not completely
unfamiliar territory for me.
What other areas of the country have you lived?
After grad school I headed out to work for the federal
government on the East Coast in Maryland and then migrated
back this way, stopped in Pittsburgh for three years and
then I started working in higher education and I started at
Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and then the University of
Cincinnati for a short stint and Wright State University for
the last five and a half years.
Please tell our readers about your experiences working both
in higher education and the federal government.
I started off working for the U.S. Department of Labor doing
personnel audits regarding equal employment. That included
investigations where there were accusations of
discrimination and involved analysis to determine whether or
not systemic discrimination had occurred within a
large-scale organization. And then, from there I went into
the higher ed and in all three of those universities I
worked in, equal employment, equity, diversity and inclusion
over the last almost 16 years.
What did you glean from your experiences performing this
Well, I think more than anything thereís a lot to understand
about people. When you bring people from diverse
backgrounds into an organization and you try to put them in
an environment where theyíll interact with one another, you
have to have some sense of understanding about how to merge
those people together and how to get them to work in a
coordinated effort to reach an outcome that all of you have
as a goal.
And that is not an easy
thing to do because everybody brings their own individual
experience to a situation, but if you learn to understand
people and you understand their desires, their needs, their
goals and you can find some common threads amongst them, you
can achieve greatness, no matter who those people are.
Now, thatís easier said
than done. On a daily basis, you have to create an
environment through every activity that you involve them and
try to be as inclusive as possible to allow everyone to feel
like theyíre part of something bigger than themselves and
something that has a goal thatís worthwhile to attain. If
you can create an environment like that, you can create
opportunities to achieve those goals that people have
determined are worthwhile personally, then you can have
success, but it wonít happen overnight and it wonít be easy,
but it is achievable.
Letís shift to Matt Boaz, the person. Please describe your
overall worldview, including the things that may have
contributed to your philosophy of life.
I think my overall worldview is created around the idea that
every person has value and that weíre all on a journey on
this earth and that thereís no reason why we have to treat
people in a way that lacks dignity to be able to coexist. I
believe that you treat someone not just the way you
want to be treated, but you treat someone the way they
want to be treated. Itís a difference between a golden rule
and a platinum rule, and for me that has always worked.
I encounter people every
day that I might have differences of opinion with, but itís
that dignity that keeps things from being at a point where
we canít deal with one another. I can have a philosophical
difference with someone where we have extremely different
viewpoints, but still maintain the idea that they deserve to
be treated with dignity and respect and get points across.
Now, I can observe someone who may differ in opinion from me
and will really just outright not agree with me on
something, and as long as they treat me with dignity and
respect, then we can agree to disagree or we can move on a
continuum to a better place, come back and try to work at it
again tomorrow and we can continue to work together. Thatís
the key point, but if the dignity is removed then thereís
nothing else left.
Do those values of dignity and the platinum rule come from a
religious foundation or your upbringing?
Well, I think itís all of the above. I was the youngest of
10 children and between my parents and my siblings it was
instilled in me in my upbringing, which was deeply driven by
my motherís and fatherís Christian guidance. Iím not a
deeply religious person, Iím more of a spiritual person, but
I would be lying if I told you that that wasnít deeply
embedded in me.
Also, my parents are a lot
older than me, so I have a bit of an old school kind of
wisdom, soul kind of feeling and it comes from being raised
in a small town in the North by two parents that were raised
in the South during the 1920s and 30s. It was very, very
That idea that everyone
has value came from the number of stories that were told
through oral history in my household, where many people
tried to convince my parents that they werenít valuable,
that they werenít worth investing in. However, the few
people who did show them that they were valued and then gave
them opportunities and how my parents capitalized on those
opportunities created something that was very special to me,
for their lives and for them to show their children.
And coming, again, from
the South and the 1920ís and 30ís there were lynchings and
other inappropriate activities like that on full display in
front of them. For them to share what it was like to
experience these things, to live through schools being
integrated in the South against the will of many of the
people, and to experience an education system that wasnít
designed for you to be successful, was very powerful. And
for them to be successful despite that is incredible. Itís
not something I take lightly. It is part of what motivated
me to get educated and to continue to work in an educational
Itís been a powerful
blessing for me to understand everything that my parents
shared with me and to try to understand the things that they
went through and to understand how fortunate I was to not
have to endure those things at the level they did.
Now, the other side of
that though is I did endure things. They were just very
different from what my parents endured, and understanding
that many of those things had nothing to do with anything
that I did, but simply had to do with who I was and how I
identified is what has propelled me in this field.
How do you relax or bring balance to your life? Do you like
I like music, but Iíll be honest with you, my biggest form
of entertainment is college football. Iím a college
football junkie. I watch any college football I can watch.
Your favorite college football team?
Iím a Buckeyes fan and also, Iíve grown to be an Auburn
fan. My son is an Auburn student and since my moneyís going
there I just decided to cheer for that team a little bit.
I have the same love for the University of Michigan, having
sent two children there, so what can I say?
You know what? Great education, I canít deny that, but Iíd
probably have to wear my scarlet and gray under everything
when I go up there.
Well, youíll have a whole lot of company in Toledo wearing
scarlet and gray, so you wonít have to hide it.
(Laughter) Thatís a beautiful thing. I look forward to
coming back to Toledo.
We look forward to having you!
Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, D.Min, at