Donald L. Duster, Business and Not-For-Profit Executive, and the grandson of Journalist and Civil Rights Activist Ida B. Wells, dies at 81

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Donald Leon Duster, a business and not-for-profit executive, died peacefully at his home in Chicago on March 11, 2013. He was 81 years old.

Duster, the grandson of Journalist and Civil Rights Activist Ida B. Wells, was born on the South Side of Chicago on February 10, 1932. He attended Wendell Phillips High School and graduated salutatorian in 1949, and went on to earn a Bachelor’s of Science in Mathematics from University of Illinois in 1953. After college he served as a 2nd Lieutenant on active duty with the United States Army. He received an MBA from DePaul University in 1978.

In 1955 he started his career as a manager at Spiegel Company where he worked for seven years. He then went to Commonwealth Edison (now ComEd) where he worked for 25 years in various management positions. He took a leave of absence from 1977 – 1979 to join Governor James R. Thompson’s cabinet as the Director of the Illinois Department of Business and Economic Development.

After leaving ComEd in 1987, Donald became the Assistant Executive Director of Chicago Commons Association, a community-based not-for-profit social service agency. For over 15 years he oversaw the operations of several sites and numerous social service programs throughout the city of Chicago.

Donald was a dedicated family man who loved to travel and was an avid photographer. He was a member of the United States -South Africa Leader Exchange Program (USSALEP), an organization devoted to finding a peaceful transition to a post-apartheid era. That gave him the opportunity to travel to several places in South Africa during the 1970s. He also enjoyed his visits to Russia, Cuba, Australia, India, Mexico and many other countries in Africa and Europe. He loved classical music, opera, tennis, chess, bowling, watching hockey and playing bridge. A true lover of books, he was a member of a book club for over 25 years. He was also a long-time member of The Economic Club of Chicago.

As a grandson of journalist and civil rights activist Ida B. Wells, Donald and his four siblings founded The Ida B. Wells Memorial Foundation in 1988 to preserve the legacy of their grandmother. They recognized accomplished journalists and in 2008 established an Ida B. Wells Scholarship for students at Rust College. Don was also a member of the Ida B. Wells Commemorative Art Committee that has commissioned Richard Hunt to create a monument in Chicago to honor Ida B. Wells.

Donald L. Duster made a peaceful transition on March 11, 2013 at age 81. His brothers Benjamin C. Duster and Charles E. Duster preceded him in death. He is survived by his wife of 50 years (Maxine), his children Michelle (Barry Coleman), David Duster and Daniel Duster, his brother Troy Duster, sister Alfreda Ferrell, and a host of nieces and nephews.

A tribute service for Donald L. Duster will take place on Saturday, April 13, 2013 at 1 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Chicago located at 6400 S. Kimbark. The family will establish a scholarship in the name of Donald L. Duster. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to The Ida B. Wells Memorial Foundation, P.O. Box 19579, Chicago, IL 60619

Submitted by:

Michelle Duster
author / speaker / project manager

Books: Ida in Her Own Words (2008), Ida From Abroad (2010)

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