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Westfield State honors Blair with degree at graduation

Date: 5/19/2009

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD -- Few have loved Westfield more or dedicated themselves to the community with as much vigor as the late Donald Blair.

His lifelong efforts to improve the quality of life within this city have yet to be forgotten since his passing last September. Westfield State College (WSC) selected Blair as an honorary degree recipient for his extraordinary service at the college's 170th Commencement Ceremony on May 16.

"Don Blair epitomized the term 'Friend of the College and Community,'" Sylvia Abar, member of the WSC Board of Trustees, said of her decision to nominate him for the accolade.

"From his community work with Kiwanis, especially the Kiwanis Auction, Junior Achievement, the Boy Scouts and the Westfield Boys and Girls Club to his work on the College Foundation, the Development Committee, guest lecturer in the communication department and serving on the department's scholarship committee, Don's contributions were unsurpassed," she continued. "His activities both on and off campus made him a man you wanted to know."

Blair was a lifelong resident of Westfield, a graduate of Westfield High School, an army veteran and a 40-year employee of United Bank.

Blair's wife, Joanne Taylor, told Reminder Publications she's honored that her husband's memory is being preserved.

"He was one of a kind ... the man of every woman's dreams," she said. "I'm so proud of him. [I want people to remember] his kindness and love of the community and willingness to do whatever he could to help people."

Rebecca Taylor, Blair's stepdaughter, agreed with her mother's sentiments.

"I think that it's a real honor to know that the community supported him so much and all the efforts he made to enhance the Westfield community," she said. "He was involved in so many ways and dedicated his entire life to Westfield. He instilled a lot of great values and [the pursuit of] lifelong education to all [in] our family."

Blair also served as treasurer of Shurtleff Children's Foundation for 34 years; a board member of the Pioneer Valley Council; an eight-year trustee of Noble Hospital; a member of the Westfield Athenaeum's Board of Trustees; and chair of the Special Gifts Program for the Pioneer Valley United Way.

"Donald Blair has been a great friend to Westfield State College, as well as to many other members of the Westfield community," Evan Dobelle, president of WSC, said. "He exemplifies a commitment to community service that is an example and inspiration for all of our students."