MINNEAPOLIS – It seemed fitting that the first public event to honor the memory of Diane Sims Page featured a room full of Page Scholars.
Diane, wife of Hall of Fame defensive tackle and retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page, passed away on Sept. 29 after a battle with breast cancer.
On Wednesday, Diane was honored by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, who declared Nov. 14, 2018, as Diane Sims Page Day.
Nearly 100 current and former students who have received scholarships from the Page Education Foundation attended the presentation at the University of St. Thomas Wednesday night to honor a woman who has made such an impact on their lives.
Merone Melekin, who is Gov. Dayton’s Assistant Chief of Staff of Scheduling, presented the proclamation to Justice Page on behalf of Gov. Dayton, who was unable to attend the event in person. Melekin is also a Page Scholar alum.
Melekin recalled her personal experience with the Page Education Foundation and specifically with Diane. She recounted her first in-person interaction with Diane several years ago. Diane remembered specific details from Melekin’s application, even though thousands of students have passed through the program, and made a personal connection.
“I realized her value and the value of the Page Education Foundation in students like myself and other students who didn’t realize that they had an opportunity,” Melekin said before inviting Justice Page to join her at the podium to receive the proclamation.
Justice Page thanked Melekin and the rest of the Page Scholars present and called them the “living example of Diane’s fierce determination to ensure justice – social justice, gender justice, racial justice for all people.”
“I can hear [Diane] telling me now, ‘Say thank you’ to all of the Page Scholars,” Justice Page added.
Justice Page encouraged the scholars to continue to live out Diane’s legacy and to remember the opportunities that they had received in order to provide similar opportunity for those who follow behind.
“She was an incredible woman, an incredible mother and an incredible wife,” Justice Page said, his voice heavy with emotion. “And she was the heart and soul of this foundation. She is no longer with us, but her spirit lives on.”
Justice Page identified himself as the “luckiest guy in the world” for having met Diane nearly 50 years ago. He told of their storybook love story, the way a “gorgeous woman, by pure serendipity,” met Justice Page in the lobby of General Mills and told him about the volunteer work she did with the Boys Club.
“When that happened, it didn’t occur to me that, here we are 47 years later, that we would have an organization of people volunteering, serving others, making life better – or, I should say, creating hope for those who maybe don’t have any hope,” Justice Page said. “I couldn’t have dreamed of it then, but in retrospect, I should have expected nothing less.
“She loved me, she encouraged me, she supported me and allowed me to become more than what I might otherwise have been,” he later added. “And I am eternally grateful for that.”
In closing, Justice Page asked Melekin to convey his deepest gratitude to Gov. Dayton.
“It has been a difficult [six] weeks, and this is one of the brightest days since she left us,” Page said. “From the bottom of my heart, I want to say ‘thank you’ to Governor Dayton for honoring her in this way.”
The following are excerpts from the proclamation. To read the document in its entirety, click here.
WHEREAS: Diane was one of a generation of women who selflessly proved you can "do it all;" and
WHEREAS: Diane was a true partner in Alan's successes, in his first career as a Hall of Fame professional football player for the Minnesota Vikings, and in his second career as the first African American Justice of the Supreme Court and
WHEREAS: Over the past 30 years, under Diane's leadership as its volunteer Executive Director, the Page Education Foundation has awarded over $15 million in scholarships to over 7,000 Minnesota students of color. Importantly, Page Scholars have provided almost 500,000 hours of volunteer service to 325 community organizations and schools across the state, positively impacting tens of thousands of younger students who they have mentored; and
WHEREAS: Many Page Scholars have gone on to become leaders in their chosen fields and have made tremendous contributions to our state and their communities, where they continue to serve as mentors and role models; and
WHEREAS: Diane exhibited the best of what it means to be a Minnesotan, using her kind, generous and seemingly boundless energy to seek out opportunities to serve her community and worked tirelessly to make our state a more just and inclusive place for all Minnesotans.