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The Aquilian

Diversity: a key part of brotherhood

Mr. Devon Leary leads the alma mater at a pep rally. (Photo submitted by Mr. Devon Leary)

Mr. Devon Leary woke up on Feb. 3, tired from the countless hours of work he had done, but he was also excited to see the fruits of his labor; that day, he would run Gonzaga’s Black History Month assembly. He would introduce Dr. Eddie Moore, the speaker for this year, to many Gonzaga students and teachers. This was the first Black History Month assembly he would run since his promotion to the director of diversity, equity and inclusion. While Mr. Leary was eager to hear Dr. Moore speak to the school, he was also nervous about the student turnout.

Unlike previous years, where the Black History Month assembly would take place in St. Aloysius church as a mandatory assembly built into the school day, this year’s assembly would occur virtually. The virtual setting worried Mr. Leary. He thought that many students wouldn’t bother attending.

After preparing the Zoom webinar,  Mr. Leary started accepting Gonzaga students into the meeting. The number of students waiting stunned him.

“Wow,” Mr. Leary shockingly said to himself. “Almost 700 people signed into the call to celebrate Black History Month.”

A smile broke across his face as he stared at the screen, Gonzaga students willingly piling in to watch Dr. Eddie Moore dive into Black history and give his own story. Mr. Leary began to think of reasons why so many students attended. 

“It’s very timely with all the racism we’ve seen on national television. People were anticipating the Black History Month assembly” he said.

Mr. Devon Leary poses with an important message at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, his first year as director of diversity. (Photo by Gonzaga College High School on Flickr)

What Mr. Leary will not mention is the instrumental role that he played in the turnout. Every day on campus, students can find Mr. Leary in the center of school programming or throwing a football, talking with students walking between classes. Sometimes his conversations with these students involve work-related matters, such as counseling students or bolstering diversity at the school. Other times he’s just joking around with the students, putting smiles on their faces before they head to their next class. To Mr. Leary, however, his job consists of all of these conversations.

“When it comes to diversity, it is critical to center and uplift minority voices and experiences, but diversity truly is all of us,” Mr. Leary said about his role. “It’s all of us included into the same brotherhood, as we come.”

He works with every type of student who walks through the halls of Gonzaga to make sure that they feel a part of the community, and he has played this role since he enrolled at Gonzaga as a student in 2002.

A member of the Class of 2006, Mr. Leary had his own Gonzaga experience before becoming a faculty member. Even back then, he worked to connect with every student at the school. As a player on both the predominantly white soccer team and the predominantly black basketball team, Mr. Leary had a diverse group of friends, and he used that diversity to foster brotherhood.

“It was interesting how I was a sort of bridge between my white friends and my black friends,” Mr. Leary said.

Years later, Gonzaga hired Mr. Leary to work in the student services department. He started off just working on student discipline, but diversity and inclusion quickly became an interest of his. As the associate dean of diversity and student life, his job shifted towards the school’s administrative diversity work. In 2020, he became the first director of diversity, equity and inclusion, a new full-time position he currently holds.

“I’m excited to keep working with faculty, staff and students to keep our reputation growing,” Mr. Leary said. “Diversity is a huge deal in our world today, and it really speaks to our community here at Gonzaga why we are so strong.”

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    Leslie KeiserMar 1, 2021 at 2:14 pm

    Thank you for this timely profile piece on Mr. Leary.