Henry Durand arrived at Denison from his hometown of Cincinnati during a tumultuous time on college campuses. Richard Dinkins ’74 provides context: “The 1960s was a turbulent time in America and most of what has come to be known as the Civil Rights Movement was unchartered—there was no road map or instruction book. On college campuses the movement was equally unchartered.”
“[Henry] was ahead of everyone else on campus,” says Dinkins. “He formed the Black Student Union and, more importantly, came up with the vision of what the university needed.” That vision included increased recruitment of African-American students, the offering of Black Studies courses, and opportunities for African-American students to socialize on campus and in nearby cities like Columbus and Newark. Durand served as chief minister of the BSU, which also provided a place for black students to gather and create community. “We’d share stories, get advice, and it was also a place where we could speak with a unified voice,” recalls David McBride ’71.
Durand played both offense and defense for the Big Red football team. “He was the only black player on the football team,” recalls Darrell Brown ’71. Durand was also the only black member of Delta Upsilon, until he convinced Brown to join him in pledging. “Henry guided me and many others through the path in Granville,” says Brown. He continued to make a difference for students of color after graduation, serving as the first president of Denison’s Black Alumni Association.
Durand earned his MEd from Xavier University and his PhD from the University of Cincinnati. His commitment to equality and justice continued through his career in academia, where he worked to increase educational opportunities for underrepresented students. At the University of Buffalo, where he worked for 29 years, Durand started as director of the university’s Educational Opportunity Program, eventually becoming senior associate vice provost of academic affairs and executive director of Cora P. Maloney College. He retired in 2014 but continued to teach courses in educational sociology. McBride attended Durand’s retirement celebration. “He was like the unofficial mayor of Buffalo. He knew so many people who had gone through his education programs—lots of low-income, first-generation, working-class students who had become successful with their work and families. He was widely known and loved.”
“Hank did what everyone aims to do: be a meaningful person,” says McBride. Durand, who received Denison’s Alumni Citation in 1996, died on December 27, 2018. Survivors include his wife, Bonita “Boni”; son, LeRoy Larkins; daughters, Aprille Haynie and Anitra Allen; eight grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Kendra Durand.