9/7/13 The Antonio Zamora Jazz Jubilee

Director emeritus and local jazz musician Antonio Zamora sits at the Purdue Black Cultural Center in 2013.

Passionate, principled, engaged, encouraging.

That's how current Black Cultural Center Director Renee Thomas described Antonio Zamora, who died Thursday.

She says his commitment as the center's director to improve Purdue and Greater Lafayette was continuous.

"Educating ... the community about the contributions of African Americans ... he did that on a daily basis," Thomas said.

She said Zamora was at the forefront of the development of the center's Performing Arts Ensemble programs and Cultural Arts Series "in which prominent guest speakers and performers come to the University on behalf of the Black Cultural Center."

Boxer Muhammad Ali, poet Maya Angelou and activist Julian Bonn are just a few of the guests who visited Purdue under Zamora's time at the BCC. Zamora told The Exponent in 2016 that Ali's visit in 1975 was "one of the most tremendous experiences" of his life.

Zamora, the center's third director, came to Purdue in 1973, "soon after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.," Thomas said, and he quickly became a leader for black Boilermakers. He retired in 1995.

"There was a lot of social and civil unrest going on," she added. "It was a period in which Purdue began to see larger numbers of black students, and he really played an instrumental role in terms of being a role model for those students."

A love for jazz

Zamora was also a renowned jazz musician who "made music his love by not making it his living," said Brent Laidler a local musician and music instructor.

Laidler said he first met Zamora 30 years ago when he trusted Laidler to be his personal repairman for his prized instruments. But Zamora wasn't just anther client.

"He became a mentor and was very supportive. He took me under his wing," Laidler said. "I was privileged to be under his umbrella."

He says Zamora was "good enough to be successful in New York" but made sure every one of his performances was a personal one, he said.

"He was everything I wanted to be growing up."

Zamora's dedication to student success and jazz music lives on in the Tony Zamora Scholarship, an annual award given to Tippecanoe County high school students who share Zamora's musical passions.

Laidler, an administrator of the scholarship, said it was created to "make sure the next generation of (jazz musicians) has the opportunity to perform."

A celebration of his life and "homecoming service plans" will be announced at a later date, Thomas said in a Facebook post on Thursday.

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