Florence Boroson, Founder of the Office of the Ombudsman, SUNY Stony Brook
Florence Boroson (ne Rothman), the founder of the Office of the Ombudsman at the State University of New York, Stony Brook (SUSB), and a long-time activist for social justice and feminist causes, died on Friday, May 20, 2011, at the University Medical Center, of cardiac arrhythmia at the age of 83.
Boroson was born in Brooklyn, educated at Brooklyn College, and moved to Stony Brook with her family in 1967. She began working at SUSB in 1969 as a part-time Technical Assistant in the library, a skilled position then filled mostly by university-educated women paid just $2.50 an hour, with no benefits. Boroson, with the help of a small group of these women, led a vigorous campaign to improve their status. Their campaign resulted in the contractual provision of vacation time, sick leave, healthcare, pensions, as well as a large pay raise, for all the Technical Assistants.
Shortly thereafter, Boroson was named Director of Personnel at the SUSB Library, and then became an assistant dean in the College of Arts and Sciences. She moved on to become a special assistant to President Marburger and served in his cabinet. Boroson was also a founding member of the SUSB chapter of the National Organization for Women. In 1985, she received the President's Award for Excellence.
In 1989, Boroson was asked to establish the first campus-wide Ombudsman office at the university, which she titled, "Office of the Campus Community Advocate." She directed that office for eight years, helping solve problems and resolve conflicts for thousands of university faculty, students and staff, including doctors, nurses, hospital staff, police officers and administrators. Her work ranged from helping students with grade disputes to investigating claims of systemic mistreatment. Based on her assessment of campus and community feedback, she made policy and personnel recommendations directly to the President. Boroson believed passionately in the importance of compromise and reconciliation; she was known for her diplomatic skills, her perseverance on her clients' behalf, and her ability to help people find their way through bureaucracy.
Boroson retired in 1997, and for the last fourteen years, was an active member of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at the university. She is survived by Louis, her husband of 53 years. She is also survived by her son, Martin, and his partner, Andrew Dodd; her daughter, Barbara, and her husband, Joseph Rutt (all of whom are writers or artists); as well as her adoring grandchildren, Sam Boroson Rutt and Leana Boroson Rutt.
Boroson's family held a private service for her on the beach in Montauk, and will hold a public celebration of her life, later in the summer. They ask that donations in her memory be sent to one of these charities: Autism Speaks, the Human Rights Campaign, or Planned Parenthood.
Nancy K. Squires