Chechen school named for Marion Doss

By Nancy Bondurant Jones

Few people have schools named in their honor, yet the Marion Doss Shkola is becoming a reality across the world in Chechnya through the William R. Nelson Institute at James Madison University. Private donations to renovate a school shelled and burned out in past fighting between Russian soldiers and Chechen rebels led to the school's name.

A JMU political science professor, Marion Doss was preparing for fall classes and making plans for a visit to Chechnya when a sudden diagnosis of lymphoma put everything on temporary hold. Unexpectedly however, the hold became permanent when Doss died just 10 days after being diagnosed.

As associate director of the Nelson Institute, Doss concentrated his time and energy on the institute's humanitarian projects. One drive led to lifesaving brain surgery for a young Moldovan girl. In another, his efforts helped provide a furnace for a group home in Gagauzia to aid elderly adults during their country’s traumatic post-communist transition. Most recently, Doss took the lead in a campaign to reopen a small school that will serve several villages.

In recognition of Doss’ work, the restored school will be named in his honor. His colleague, JMU professor Steven Bowers, calls him “a centurion-scholar, a man who served [both] his country and the teaching profession.” Bowers has dedicated a book to Doss that the two recently completed on the great transitional process in Eastern Europe. Doss says, "His passing leaves a tremendous gap not only in our work but also in our hearts. While his efforts may be measured in terms of research, teaching and service, his greatest contributions were his absolute honesty, compassion and wisdom."

Students on both sides of the Atlantic will continue to benefit from programs he supported, programs that carry his name and promises of education into the next generation.