Dr. Paulette Fleming, a Fresno State educator who died unexpectedly last October, is still being honored for her bold work in the community.
“Paulette had a unique combination of boldness and humility,” said her good friend and colleague Dr. Francine Oputa, director of Fresno State’s Cross Cultural and Gender Center. “She was bold in the face of injustice and humble about the tireless work she did to make this world a better place.”
The awards will be presented from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 25, at the Fresno Art Museum (2233 N. First St.). The award honors an arts educator in recognition of contributions made in the classroom and the community.
“Dr. Fleming continues to be a source of pride and inspiration to us all,” said Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities. “Her life and work embodies the transformational power of art – artistic expression provides us with the unique opportunity to affirm concepts and emotions that deepen our perspective and enrich our world. Dr. Fleming touched us all with her sense of community and social justice.”
She devoted much of her time and energy reaching out to children in the community, and was also co-founder and executive director of the Partners-in-Art Program (Fresno State art Professor William Raines is the other co-founder).
Fleming’s daughter, Jamillah Finley, said passion for service is what drove her mother.
“She was very service oriented, especially for people who were underprivileged. She really had a heart for underprivileged children, children who maybe wouldn’t have the opportunities or exposure to the arts.”
Dr. Oputa shared a favorite memory of hers.
“She had broken her ankle. A set of beautiful twin boys who lived in a subsidized apartment complex where she volunteered her time to teach art were fighting with each other to push her around in her wheelchair. She convinced them to take turns pushing her around, which they were oh-so-proud to do. Suddenly they were pushing her really, really fast and Paulette’s eyes widened. At that point I said, ‘Boys, be careful. Dr. Fleming is not a toy!’ She began laughing with sheer delight. A few days later we were together and she told me every time she thought about ‘Dr. Fleming is not a toy.’ She would laugh out loud and it would brighten her day.”
Dr. Fleming’s unexpected death came just a few weeks later. Finley said she and her sons and daughter – Fleming’s grandchildren, ages 17, 16 and 9 – all miss their grandma very much. “She was a wonderful grandmother, very present with them, a very big part of their lives.”
Additional information can be found here: Horizon Awards.
~ By Lisa Maria Boyles