Bahai News - FIRST COAST CHRONICLES: FCCJ official pursues unity in humanity Story last updated at 9:14 p.m. on Friday, October 5, 2001

FIRST COAST CHRONICLES: FCCJ official pursues unity in humanity

When Duane Dumbleton began thinking about what he wanted to do with his life, he thought he wanted to be an atomic engineer.

Then he learned that he was more fascinated with the lives of humans than the makeup of molecules.

"When I was at the University of Wisconsin, I had a roommate who was from Nigeria," said Dumbleton, who is president of Florida Community College at Jacksonville's Kent Campus. "I learned a lot from him. Even as a kid, I've always been interested in people and culture."

That interest is what pushed Dumbleton, 63, to pursue degrees in Asian studies and in anthropology. After applying for 105 jobs, he was hired by FCCJ -- then Florida Junior College -- in 1973. He taught for several years before becoming an administrator and ultimately, a campus president.

"But I still teach," Dumbleton said. "I teach world religion. In all my 28 years at the college, I have taught at least one course a term."

Which shows that even as an administrator, Dumbleton doesn't want to lose touch with people. That not only means the students he governs, but the community he interacts with as a longtime activist and member of the Baha'i faith.

The Baha'i faith teaches that all the messengers of each religion speak for one God, and that the same God speaks to all religions. Therefore, Baha'is pursue racial, religious and ethnic unity and peace as a matter of faith.

"The oneness of mankind -- that's our pivotal goal," Dumbleton said.

Dumbleton's yearnings for world harmony came early. As a boy growing up on a farm in Wisconsin, his first memory was about war.

"I remember the end of World War II because Roosevelt had died, and my mother was crying," he said.

On the farm, Dumbleton learned to treat people from different walks of life with respect rather than suspicion.

"One time, we hired some migrant workers to pick cabbage," Dumbleton recalled. "They stayed in our house with us, and they were wonderful."

Dumbleton continued to pursue his interest in people and culture by attending a progressive school like the University of Wisconsin. He learned much from his Nigerian roommate. And Dumbleton, who was once married to an African-American woman, says their five children are a huge reason why he works to eliminate prejudice.

"Right now, my main goal is to teach the oneness of humanity," Dumbleton said. "I try to teach, and to demonstrate, in my personal life, that we are one."

Here's hoping that more people will pay attention.

Tonyaa Weathersbee's columns appear in the Wednesday and Saturday Community News sections, and on the Monday opinion page. She can be reached at 359-4251 or at tweathersbee@jacksonville.com.


©Copyright 2001, The Florida Times-Union

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