Family members of Delia Bolden were special guests at the February 15 ribbon cutting and ceremony to officially commemorate the renaming of the Delia Bolden School.
The event, which took place in the school’s auditorium, was attended by students, teachers and staff, as well as South Orange-Maplewood Superintendent Dr. Ronald Taylor, Principal Kimberly Hutchinson and other district and school administrators, current and former Board of Education members, and state and county education officials — including former Marshall School principal and current NJ Commissioner of Education Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan. (See full list of attendees at the end).
The most meaningful and emotional part of the event was the attendance of Dr. Carole Willis — Delia Bolden’s niece — and her other family members. Dr. Willis gave moving remarks and recollections of “Aunt Delia.”
In an exciting development just a few months ago, the Columbia High School archive committee (Carol Petrallia, Anne Wessel, Hannah Edelman, Andra Marx and Susan Newberry) located Dr. Willis, who is Delia’s sister Pearl’s daughter. “That was a very emotional moment,” said Petrallia. “…We feel that we have gone full circle, because Dr. Willis and [her daughter] Courtney have been teachers.” Dr. Willis was an administrator at Kean University, and served on the Montclair Board of Education during a pivotal time when the district was becoming integrated.
Learn more about Dr. Willis here.
“Because Delia Bolden graduated from [Columbia] High School more than a century ago, I am among very few persons living today who was blessed to have known Delia Bolden personally,” said Willis, who noted that Pearl and Delia were not just sisters, they were “the best of friends.”
Watch the full video here; Dr. Willis’ comments begin at around the 53 minute mark:
“…Aunt Delia’s presence was that of an esteemed family elder and I was blessed to enjoy the warmth of her hugs, the taste of her cooking, the sound of her laughter and the wisdom of her mentoring,” Dr. Willis said. She was “a constant ambassador for peace who truly believed in the power of love. ‘Only love can conquer hate,’ she always told us.”
Dr. Willis said Delia was “bold in her commitment to live a purposeful life and courageous in her willingness to help others. [She]…maintained a lifetime belief in the power of education to provide the essential life skills for economic, social and political success. Indeed, public education helped to transform this nation of immigrants into a successful democracy.”
Calling support for public education a “generational family value,” Dr. Willis said it was “especially awesome that today we cut the ribbon for a school that has been named in Delia’s honor.” She ended her remarks by thanking the school and district community for “the welcome, guidance and encouragement that Delia received when she enrolled as a student in this school district.”
Full text of the speech from Dr. Taylor: