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Old School and Platinum

By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, Ph.D.
The Truth Contributor

  I had a heritage, rich and nearer than the tongue which gave it voice. My mind resounded with the words and my blood raced to the rhythms. - Maya Angelou


Rev. Donald L. Perryman, D.Min.

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 environments.

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.

Perryman: First of all, welcome to Toledo. I hear that you are from northwest Ohio.

Boaz:  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 Services.

Perryman: Really?

Boaz: Yes. So, Iím coming back to Toledo, which is not completely unfamiliar territory for me.

Perryman: What other areas of the country have you lived?

Boaz:  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.

Perryman: Please tell our readers about your experiences working both in higher education and the federal government.

Boaz: 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.   

Perryman: What did you glean from your experiences performing this work?

Boaz:  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.

Perryman: Letís shift to Matt Boaz, the person. Please describe your overall worldview, including the things that may have contributed to your philosophy of life.

Boaz:  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. 

Perryman: Do those values of dignity and the platinum rule come from a religious foundation or your upbringing? 

Boaz:  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 powerful. 

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 system. 

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. 

Perryman: How do you relax or bring balance to your life? Do you like music?

Boaz:  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. 

Perryman: Your favorite college football team?

Boaz:  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.

Perryman: I have the same love for the University of Michigan, having sent two children there, so what can I say?

Boaz:  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. 

Perryman: Well, youíll have a whole lot of company in Toledo wearing scarlet and gray, so you wonít have to hide it.

Boaz:  (Laughter) Thatís a beautiful thing. I look forward to coming back to Toledo.

Perryman: We look forward to having you!

Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, D.Min, at drdlperryman@centerofhopebaptist.org



Copyright © 2019 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 02/08/19 00:33:02 -0500.



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