Former Marshal University multicultural VP dies at 89

Published 1:27 am Thursday, January 21, 2021

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Marshall University is mourning one of its longtime faculty members, who was a pioneer in multicultural education.

Dr. Betty Jane Cleckley, who retired from Marshall as the vice president of multicultural affairs in 2007, died Friday in Montgomery, Illinois at the age of 89.

“Dr. Cleckley is being remembered on our campus and across the nation as a lifelong advocate for social justice and a voice for those who often felt unable to speak for themselves,” President Jerome Gilbert said in a news release. “While I never had the pleasure of meeting her, Dr. Cleckley was certainly an iconic force at Marshall, loved and respected by generations of colleagues and students. Her legacy and foundational work continue today at Marshall, where we value each person for who they are and welcome everyone as an important member of our community.”

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Cleckley served over 31 years in administrative and teaching positions in the health and higher education fields. She was active in civic and professional organizations, and served on national and state boards, such as the Defense Advisory Committee for Women in the Services and the West Virginia Human Rights Commission.  She served on West Virginia’s holiday commission for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the board of directors of the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center, Friends of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, Cabell Huntington Hospital Foundation Inc. Development Council Community Relations Committee and the Center for Aging and Health Care in West Virginia Inc.

She was a lifetime member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, a longtime dedicated member of the American Public Health Association and National Council of Negro Women Inc.

The Betty Jane Cleckley Minority Issues Research Award, established by the American Public Health Association, recognizes research on minority health issues, particularly among the elderly. She also co-edited “Strategies for Promoting Pluralism in Education and the Workplace,” published by the Greenwood Publishing Company in 1997.  She spoke and wrote extensively in the areas of education, social justice and opportunities for African Americans and worked tirelessly to raise funds to establish the Harmony Institute at Marshall University.