Boone contributes to community

Published 10:55 pm Saturday, February 18, 2012

Editor’s Note: Each Sunday during Black History Month, the Suffolk News-Herald will feature an influential black person in the Suffolk community.

When Dr. George Barnett first came to Paul D. Camp Community College to ask Ross Boone about a new project he was starting called Suffolk Leadership Academy, Boone didn’t know it would last this long or be this influential in the community.

But even as one of the leaders of a leadership academy, Boone does not view himself as a leader.


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“What I really am is just a person who wants to give back to the community that gave me my start,” he said.

The leadership academy, held annually, gives students an overview of what it takes to get involved in Suffolk, whether as a volunteer, member of city government or in any other facet of the community.

“I believe you’re supposed to give back,” said Boone, a Suffolk native. “You’ve got to get up, get out and get involved. Nobody can sit on a couch and solve all the problems of the world.”

Boone grew up on North Sixth Street, in the home his grandfather built.

He attended North Carolina A&T State University and became an educator. In addition to teaching in K-12 schools, he has worked at Hampton University for about nine years and at Old Dominion University as the assistant dean of the College of Education.

For 10 years, Boone worked at Paul D. Camp Community College to close out his career, first as director of the Suffolk campus and then as dean of academic programs for all three locations in Suffolk, Franklin and Smithfield.

It was there that Barnett first approached him about Suffolk Leadership Academy.

“That has been a really wonderful experience for me,” Boone said, insisting that he no longer leads so much as “facilitates.” The alumni now do most of the work, he said.

“I’m just a poor country boy who’s been given some real opportunities and took advantage of those opportunities,” he said.

Boone has traveled the world and lived in several other countries, including England and Scotland. But still, he chose to come home to Suffolk, back to the same house on North Sixth Street.

“I chose to come home, to end my active, for-pay working career, in Suffolk, he said.

But Boone has been no stranger to work after his retirement, even though he doesn’t see a paycheck for any of it.

He recently ended a seven-year stint on the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts board during a planned merger of the two boards that governed the center and fundraised for it.

“After you’ve been somewhere for a long time, it’s time to move on so there can be a fresh exchange of ideas,” he said. But he still plans on supporting the center in other ways — “You don’t have to be on the board to do it.”

But he is on the boards of several other organizations — the Western Tidewater Free Clinic, the American Red Cross Mid-Atlantic Blood Services Region and Suffolk Peanut Fest.

“The work the clinic does is just unbelievable,” he said of the free clinic. “I think it’s just a wonderful opportunity.”

He enjoys the Red Cross work “because you can see the direct benefit of what you do,” he said. And at Peanut Fest, he enjoys working with the volunteers.

“You have people who take their annual vacation and spend a week at the Peanut Fest volunteering,” he said. “That’s a direct give-back to the community in a different kind of way.”

He also is involved with his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, as well as the local alumni association for his college.

Boone said he is committed to remaining a leader in Suffolk.

“I listen to everyone,” he said. “That’s one of the things true leaders do. You never know who’s going to bring you a different idea.”