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Jesse Edward Nash Jr., retired Canisius College professor, activist

Feb. 22, 1926 - May 11, 2016

Jesse Edward Nash Jr., longtime Canisius College professor, community activist and the son of the pastor of the historic Michigan Street Baptist Church, died Wednesday in Elderwood at Amherst following a short illness. He was 90.

A Buffalo native, Mr. Nash attended School 32 and graduated from Hutchinson-Central Technical High School.

A Korean War-era veteran of the Army, Mr. Nash was a professor in the Sociology/Anthropology department at Canisius College for 33 years. He retired in 1998 as professor emeritus.

In 1966, he earned a master’s degree in sociology/anthropology from the University at Buffalo, and was recognized for research excellence at graduation.

From 1967-71, Mr. Nash served as the executive director and program developer of Buffalo Model Cities component of the federal program that sought to improve the physical, social and economic well-being of inner-city residents across the nation. Mr. Nash also was instrumental in citizen participation in other civic projects, including the Buffalo Waterfront Alternatives Study, War Memorial Stadium Restoration Project and the Erie Community College City Campus feasibility study for a new physical education facility.

From 1969 to 1973, Mr. Nash also was a lecturer in the department of Social, Philosophical and Historical Foundations at UB’s School of Graduate Education. He also lectured on sociology, African-American studies, architecture and planning at Harvard, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon and McMaster universities.

From 1975 to 1980, Mr. Nash served as assistant vice president/affirmative action officer at UB’s Office of Finance and Management.

In 1978, he became president of Seventy-Eight Restoration, an organization concerned with neighborhood preservation and economic development, and helped forge the development of the Emerson Row apartments for low-income people.

Musically inclined, Mr. Nash learned to play several instruments, including clarinet and piano, by ear, his family said. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, he played trumpet in the Expansions, a trio including sons Jesse III on keyboards and George on drums.

Mr. Nash organized and directed the Jesse Nash 40 Voices choir, which was the first choral group to appear on television in Buffalo on WBEN on Christmas Day in 1948.

Mr. Nash also played a key role in establishing the health center on Buffalo’s East Side that was dedicated in his name in 1972.

He was honored with several awards over the years, including doctor of humane letters from Canisius College and President’s Medal in 1972; Martin Luther King Jr. Award in 1991; UB’s Haupt Award for undergraduate sociological research in 1958; Evers-Young Award from the Buffalo Urban League in 1975; UB’s President’s Award in 1980; Educator of the Year from the New York State Black and Puerto Rican Caucus in 1989; Medgar Evers Award from the Buffalo Branch NAACP in 1990; Governor’s Award for Distinguished Blacks in New York State in 1993; and the Red Jacket community service award from the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society in 1994.

He also was a member of Alpha Sigma Nu, the Jesuit national honor society, the state Retired Teachers Association and Omega Psi Phi fraternity. A life member of the NAACP, he also served as vice president of Buffalo Urban League.

Mr. Nash served on the College Council of SUNY Buffalo State and the New York State Commission on Minorities in the Health-related Professions in Higher Education. He served on the boards of Child and Family Services, Millard Fillmore Gates Hospital, Erie County Industrial Development Agency, Local 533 American Federation of Musicians and Colored Musicians Club.

He was an active member of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church since 1978.

In addition to his two sons, Mr. Nash is survived by his wife of 65 years, the former Hortense Butts; and one daughter, Deborah Nash Franklin.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Wednesday in St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, 18 Sussex St., where the family will receive friends beginning at 10 a.m.

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