On August 25, 2020, STC Fellow and longtime member Donn DeBoard passed away. He was 66.
Donn was one of the first people I became friends with in the STC. I had just finished attending my first STC-Philadelphia Mid-Atlantic Technical Communication Conference (now known as CONDUIT) back in 2013. I was very nervous about meeting new people at the post-conference social. However, once I arrived at the restaurant, I sat down next to a quiet, reserved, yet very friendly individual. He introduced himself as Donn DeBoard and started to put me at ease and pull me out of my shell. We chit-chatted about our families–his daughter was just about to graduate from college, and he was rather proud of her accomplishments. He patiently listened to me tell him about how I had just restarted my career in tech comm, and about raising my own son. That night, a friendship with Donn DeBoard was forged.
During my short friendship with Donn, I came to learn about how passionate he was about tech comm–as much as I was. The trick was that he’d been doing it a LOT longer. I was among the proud attendees from Philadelphia who were able to see Donn receive his STC Fellow award in 2014. It was truly an honored moment for him, for sure! I had also gotten to know Donn for his work within our Philadelphia Metro chapter supporting the academic outreach program. During his tenure, he had built up incredible partnerships with local colleges and universities, but especially with Drexel, his alma mater, and was able to create a viable scholarship competition program for students. On the Society level, he was on the Nominating Committee, worked hard on the scholarship program, received the Distinguished Chapter Service Award, and presented at many local, regional, and international conferences. He was a force to be reckoned with!
The things that I remember most about Donn was his joy and willingness to help others out in the field–which is probably why he gravitated towards students and new technical communicators. As I shared the news of his passing with others from STC-PMC who had worked with him, several had said that he had helped them get a job in tech comm when they needed it most, or he was a fantastic mentor to them as they got started. He always jumped at the opportunity to serve as a mentor to many new professionals seeking guidance in this field. He was always curious, always open to learning new things in this ever-changing field, and adapt with the times.
For me personally, he was a different kind of mentor. As I ascended the ranks of the chapter leadership, Donn was always available to lend an ear and give advice. His wisdom influenced many decisions on chapter leadership. He was dedicated to protecting the chapter that he’d helped to build and maintain over the years. After dealing with some health issues, Donn came back after a sabbatical from the Philadelphia chapter council to help with our chapter rebuilding, and ran for the new role of Secretary/Treasurer this year. We were so happy to have him back in the fold as we just kicked off our program year. Alas, he was unable to see the changes going forward with his passing.
All those I’ve talked to since passing along the news of his death have said the same thing. Donn was one of the nicest people you’d ever meet–a truly kind, good, soft-spoken person, who was easily amused by the silliest jokes from those around him, and someone who contributed so much to the STC. He was always wanting to help and support those around him, and took every opportunity he could to do so. He was passionate about his activities with the STC, as it made up a prominent part of who he was. Even his obituary prominently highlighted his activities and accomplishments with the STC.
Donn was a member of the STC for almost 35 years, and his exuberance for the STC was with him right up until the end. The STC will certainly miss this bright light, but not more than those of us in his own Philadelphia Metro Chapter who will miss him the most.
–Danielle M. Villegas, STC-PMC Immediate Past President
Donn in action: