University of California, Riverside

UC Riverside Foundation Scholarships, Fellowships & Awards

DeVonne Armstrong Memorial Student Award Fund

DeVonne Armstrong Memorial Student Award Fund


Music D01037


Undergraduate Student Support

History and Purpose:

During the time of the Watts Riots DeVonne Armstrong decided to send a letter to ask for inclusion into the Riverside Board of Realtors.

He was accepted and became the first Black to be accepted into the group's membership.

Armstrong stood on the shoulders of his mentor Dr. Barnett Grier who was denied entry. "I was so proud of him. He was my best student," said Dr. Grier. Dr. Grier's student passed away after a long illness.

Dr. Grier was also proud when his student became the first Black on the Planning Commission and then again when he was elected chair. He was proud that he belonged to the Board of Realtors.

In fact, Armstrong chaired the Professional Standards Committee for years. He was appointed to the chairmanship after Michael Teer became president. It was his dream to become the Chair. And he was good. John Giardinelli, board legal council said, "he was a leader in ethics. He was one of the finest men I know, a true leader with integrity and a sense of duty."

Teer spoke of when he became President of the Inland Valley Realtors. "DeVonne had been on the Professional Standards Committee for some time. He was considered an authority. He had trained Chairs but was never asked to be Chair, until I was elected and he told me the story," said Teer.

Not only did Teer keep him in that position but every president since has kept him there. "I am standing on the shoulders of Barnett Grier and DeVonne Armstrong. If it had not been for them doing the ground work I don?t know where I?d be," said Teer.

Giardinelli agrees, "DeVonne was the first to break the color line. He led by his sense of ethics," he said.

Walt McDonald, President of the National Association of Realtors® said, "he was an intrical part of the organized real estate profession. A fine gentleman and a good friend."

Dr. Lula Mae Clemons said she had known him since the early 60?s. She attends the same church and she has been in several organizations and for years it was Armstrong who did her taxes. "He was a civic-minded person, he was a dedicated son to his parents, and he was special because he was considerate of others."

His wife Helen is very saddened that he passed but she said his health had been failing for quite a while. "There is so much written about him. He has many many awards for his work He enjoyed music. He mastered the keyboard and the accordion. His mother made sure he learned to play," said Helen Armstrong. "But more than anything he was a very caring person," she said.

Armstrong was presented with the Urban League Humanitarian Award, The Distinguished Citizen Award 1989 by the Boy Scouts, an award from the LA Raisers, and the Citizen of the Year Award from the Chamber of Commerce, breaking yet another barrier.

He taught at Riverside Community College, in Riverside and in Moreno Valley. He is a past President of the Rotary Club and the Monday Morning Group, and served on 20 boards, commissions and committees. He ran three businesses simultaneously.

In the 1960's when race riots were everywhere, he kept the lines of communication open between the Anglo and Black communities and Police Department.

It was during this time that former UCR Police Chief Bill Howe became involved with him.

"We had a chief who wasn't promoting people in the Department. DeVonne taught me the ins and outs of city politics and all about activism. We spoke out about the unfair treatment of minorities in the department. Then we found out that the chief was an equal opportunity oppressor and DeVonne and I spoke up for all of the rank and file," said Howe.

Armstrong was born in Chicago August 14, 1931 and graduated from Inglewood High School there. He moved with his family to California and his parents became active members of Second Baptist Church.

He leaves to cherish his memory, his wife of 30 years, Helen, daughters Jacqueline B. Collins and Debbie A. Curtis of Los Angeles, son Kenneth D. Armstrong of Corona, stepchildren, Connie Thompson and Ralph Bush of Riverside and John K. Bush of Rialto. And one cousin Ruthie Pines of Chicago.

"He cared about people and he cared about his family," said Helen.

Selection and Guidelines:

This fund shall be used to provide need-based financial assistance to a UCR transfer student with a major or minor in Music.

 Request for Information:

Performing Arts
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More Information 

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Department Information

Office of Development
1955 Chicago Avenue, Ste. 200, Riverside, CA 92507

Roberta Albert
Assistant Director for Stewardship and Donor Relations
Tel: (951) 827-5247

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