Dowagiac school board president Ronda Sullivan passes away

Published 2:45 pm Monday, January 2, 2023

DOWAGIAC — The Dowagiac community is in mourning following the passing of a prominent community member.

Dowagiac Union Schools Superintendent Jonathan Whan announced that School Board President Ronda Sullivan passed away Sunday morning following an eight-year battle with gastric cancer.

“I write this message with great sadness as we have learned that Ronda Sullivan, our Board of Education President, while surrounded by family and friends, peacefully passed away yesterday,” Whan said. “She was a loving mother, sister, and friend who was committed to our school system and the Dowagiac community. She will be deeply missed by all who knew her.”

A visitation will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13 at Brown Funeral Home at 521 E. Main St., Niles, and the funeral service will be held at noon on Saturday, Ja 14 at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, 601 Ferry St., Niles. There will be a time of visitation one hour prior to the service. She will be laid to rest following the service at Riverside Cemetery in Dowagiac. 

Born and raised in Dowagiac, Sullivan was heavily involved in community and district activities. A former Parent Teacher Organization president in the district, Sullivan supervised several area McDonald’s locations for JNKO Management Inc. and in 2021 was chosen to be the DUS Board of Education president after years of serving on the board. Her twin sister, Danielle Lucas, is a financial aid systems analyst at Southwestern Michigan College and serves on the Dowagiac City Council.

“Ronda has always been a leader,” Lucas said in a 2021 interview. “She has always been a take-charge kind of person. That’s just part of her character. I think that I’ve actually been the quiet one, so I looked to her to be our voice sometimes because she’s more articulate, and she, you know, she’s more outgoing. She inspires me to be the same. I appreciate that quality in her, it has just always been that way and so she kind of dragged me along getting encouraged me every step of the way, so I appreciate her. She’s my best friend.”

Representation was always important to Sullivan. As a black woman in a position of power, she aimed to serve as a source of inspiration for the community’s black youth.

“I wanted to make sure that my children saw that I was involved,” Sullivan said in a 2021 interview. “I want my niece to see us in a position where she can know that she can do different things and that she sees herself in any institute and any avenue.”

More on Ronda Sullivan:

Ronda Sullivan to lead DUS board

Dowagiac women aim to make change through local government