Dr. Simmie S.
Dr. Simmie S. Blakney, professor emeritus at the University of Toledo, departed this life peacefully on Monday, July 15, 2013, in The Toledo Hospital with the caring support of his wife, Era Blakney. He was a well recognized and respected educator who was distinguished by his keen intellect in the field of Mathematics and a memorable smile. He served the students and the University faithfully for 34 years. He was the youngest of 12 children (all deceased) born to Will and Leann Blakney in Clark County, MS in 1928. He discovered, at a young age, that he had a "knack for numbers".
Dr. Blakney pursued his passion by earning a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tougaloo College in 1950.
As a recipient of several Danforth Foundation and National Science Foundation fellowships and grants, he went on to earn a Masters of Science in Mathematics from the University of Illinois in 1955; and a Ph.D from the University of Illinois in 1963. His teaching credentials prior to the University of Toledo included Utica Junior College (MS), and Assistant Professor and Chair of the Mathematics Department at Grambling College.
From 1951-1953 his leadership and teaching skills were validated by the U.S. Army where he proudly served his country as a weapons instructor, while stationed at Fort Lee Virginia, during the Korean War.
He joined the University of Toledo Department of Mathematics in 1964. He was elected as a member to the American Mathematical Society the same year that his doctoral thesis, "Lusin's Theorem in an Abstract Space" was submitted to the Mathematical Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences. Two years later, in 1971, he was the first African-American appointed to chair the University of Toledo Department of Mathematics, an accomplishment recognized by the 109th General Assembly of the Ohio House of Representatives. During his ten year term as chairman, Dr. Blakney became a respected thought leader among his peers in the area of applied mathematics that significantly enhanced professional opportunities for Math majors. He was retained by the Educational Testing Service and the College Entrance Examination Board (College Board) to explore ways in which the standardized tests could be improved.
The impact of Dr. Blakney's presence on the UT campus was not limited to the classroom.
He was one of the Founding members of the Association of Black Faculty and Staff (formerly the University of Toledo Black Faculty Caucus). Additionally, he was instrumental in establishing the Office of Minority Affairs at UT and was a Member of the Faculty Senate.
In retirement he continued to find joy in teaching younger students through the Upward Bound Program under the direction of Dr. Helen Cook. He was a board member of The Art Tatum African-American Resource Center of the Toledo Lucas County Public Library System.
His social and fraternal associations included membership in the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Masons and he was a Lifetime Member of the University Alumni Association. He was an amateur photographer and a respected gemologist who was an active member of the Toledo Gem and Rockhound Club. He enjoyed all the arts especially listening to jazz, blues and gospel.
His professional intellect was equally matched by a personal passion for politics and world affairs and his thinking was driven by a deep seeded sense of justice and faith.
His greatest source of pride was his family which he dearly loved. Before and after retirement he assisted his wife, Era, in running Richey's Barbeque Deli.
He was a longtime member of First Congregational Church and served on several boards and committees.
He is survived by his beloved wife, Era (Turner) Blakney; sons, Benjamin (Dr. Sandra) Blakney of Raleigh, NC; Willard (Shina) Blakney of Dayton, OH, Erickson Blakney of New York City; and three grandsons, Jared Blakney, Davidson College, Charlotte, NC; Jasen Blakney, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA and an adopted grandson, Tyler (10 yrs.), Dayton, OH. He has a favorite niece, Dr. Betty Blakney-Richards of Houston, TX and nephew, William Earl Blakney, Esq. of Seattle, WA and a host of other family members. He will be missed by all.
Visitation will be held Friday, July 19, 2013, from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at The House of Day Funeral Services Chapel. Burial will be Saturday July 20, 2013. 10:00 a.m. at Woodlawn Cemetery, 1502 W. Central Ave., followed by 11:00 a.m. Memorial Service at First Congregational Church, 2315 Collingwood Ave. Please sign register book at www.houseofday.com
Dr. Blakney never forgot the role that Tougaloo College played in his future successes. Accordingly he endowed a book scholarship fund to support incoming freshman with financial needs. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that memorial gifts be made to either:
The Dr. Simmie S. Blakney Memorial Book Scholarship Fund Tougaloo College Office of Institutional Advancement 500 West County Line Road Tougaloo, Mississippi 39174, or The University Church Garden Outreach Initiative c/o Reverend Dr. Julian A. Davies 4747 Hill Avenue Toledo, Ohio 43615.
Published in Toledo Blade on July 18, 2013