Courtesy of the trustees of the New Bedford Free Public Library
Margery V. “Ruby” Dottin (1922-2020) was the first African American woman to be elected to the New Bedford School Committee in 1976. She then went on to win five consecutive four-year terms before her retirement in 1997. She served as the director of the Upward Bound program at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth for 16 years. Ruby saw the potential for greatness in youth and worked to open doors for many New Bedford students.
Margery V. “Ruby” Dottin (1922-2020) was a member of the New Bedford School Committee for many years, and was the first African American woman to be elected to the committee in 1976. She then went on to win five consecutive four-year terms before her retirement in 1997. She was born on November 17, 1922, in Cambridge, MA to her mother, Marie Heywood of Barbados.
Always a strong supporter of the role of education in creating a better community and opening pathways for youth, Ruby worked on education policy her entire adult life. She touched so many lives with her work on the school committee and through her work for the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Upward Bound program where she served as director for 16 years. Upward Bound is designed for high school students who have the potential to succeed in college and could benefit from: tutoring, academic enrichment, pre-college skills development, career counseling, college visits, cultural enrichment and year-round academic and social support. UB provides opportunities for students to succeed in high school and ultimately in college.
Ruby saw the potential for greatness in the youth she came in contact with and worked to open doors for many New Bedford students. One episode that exemplified her impact was in 1970 when the University of Massachusetts Amherst reached out to New Bedford High School administrators seeking underrepresented students who would be invited to apply to the college. The administrators told the university staff that there were no underrepresented students of college caliber in their senior class. (This was at a time when colleges and universities around the country were just beginning to work to increase educational opportunity for marginalized students). Ruby worked with other Black leaders to turn that response around and assisted in the selection of 20 underrepresented students who were encouraged to apply to UMass Amherst. Those students were then admitted as the second class of underrepresented students on the Amherst campus. Many of these students went on to complete their college education and became New Bedford community and educational leaders and leaders in their respective communities around the country.
Margery earned a master’s degree in education from Harvard University and was awarded an honorary doctoral degree from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Prior to her retirement, Margery was the director of the Upward Bound program at Southeastern Massachusetts University (UMass Dartmouth). Her accomplishments included director of Project SPACE, a program aimed at assisting New Bedford’s youth at the high school level in education. She was also the deputy director of ONBOARD, local anti-poverty agency.
Among her many awards were the Afro-American History Museum Award, the SMU Outstanding Performance Award, the NAACP Award for Education and Community Service, Governor’s Citation in education and community service, Martha Briggs Award for Commitment to Education, Mayor’s Award from the City of New Bedford for her contribution to Black History in New Bedford, and the YWCA Economic and Social Justice Award. She was also nominated as the Standard-Times Woman of Year in New Bedford.
Margery was a member of the NAACP, the New Bedford Historical Society, the Julio J. Alves Scholarship Committee, the League of Women Voters, the American Red Cross, and the YWCA, where she served as assistant treasurer. She was an active and devoted member of the International Church of the Nazarene.
Margery V. “Ruby” Dottin, 98, of New Bedford passed away peacefully at home in her sleep on November 19, 2020.
Lee Blake, New Bedford Historical Society
- Brown, Curt. “She Didn’t Just Talk the Talk: Remembering Ruby Dottin, First Black Member of New Bedford School Committee.” SouthCoast Today, 27 Nov. 2020, https://www.southcoasttoday.com/story/news/2020/11/27/new-bedford-remembers-ruby-dottin-first-black-school-committee/6395464002/.
- “Margery V. “Ruby” Dottin.” Currentobituary.com, 19 Nov. 2020, https://www.currentobituary.com/obit/249506.
- Richard, Barry. “New Bedford’s Ruby Dottin Was a Champion for All People.” 1420 WBSM, 24 Nov. 2020, https://wbsm.com/new-bedfords-ruby-dottin-was-a-champion-for-all-people-opinion/.