Black History Month Alumni Spotlight • Gregory Dyson '76
Gregory Dyson ’76 is Chief Operating Officer of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC), a leading social enterprise organization based in Washington DC with a mission to provide a Just Economy for All. Gregory is a senior executive with more than 20 years national non-profit c-suite experience leading organizations to fulfill their mission and achieve their vision focusing on people, process and programs. Currently, he serves on the Board of Trustees of Ohio Wesleyan University and is a member of the Board of Directors for AARP Foundation. Previously, Gregory served on the Board of Trustees of Georgetown Preparatory School from 2011 – 2017 and as Chair of the Board 2015 – 2017 and in 2017 he received the Insignis Medal. Throughout his career he has championed economic justice, health equity and education issues for those in need. This work continues through Gregory’s leadership to endow scholarships for Prep students in the memory of Jeffrey L. Jones, Prep’s first African American Headmaster and President.
After Prep Gregory attended Ohio Wesleyan University where he earned a BA in Government and later received his MBA from the Darden School at the University of Virginia. He lives in Olney with his wife, Avis. Their sons Adam and Alden are Prep graduates, 2011 and 2013 respectively.
I came to Prep’s campus as freshman 50 years ago this past fall following my cousin, Darnell C. Beatty who had graduated that spring. I didn’t know what I didn’t know at the time. Everything was a new experience. Imagine a campus with no Hanley center (baseball field); no George center (gym); no Figge (old gym and parking lot) and no Residential Life Center (faculty parking lot). Gunlocke Hall was the new kid on the block having opened the previous year. That dorm for resident students was considered transformational at the time. Just as Prep’s campus has come a long way in the last 50 years, so have my life’s experiences. Thanks to the strong foundation Prep afforded me.
It’s more than the buildings. It’s the people and the roles they have played in the formation in hundreds of young men in the classrooms, on the ball fields and in every aspect of campus life. Fr. Sauter, Coach Feagan and Mr. Barry were there then and there today forming men of character, competence, compassion and commitment. The spirit of their work continues today in the dozens of newer, younger faculty and staff.
One of my many rewarding life experiences was returning to campus in the early 2000’s when my sons, Adam 2011 and Alden 2013 attended to see that spirit once again and experience the diversity that Prep presents in its student body – both cultural and economic, global and local. From Bethesda to Baltimore to Baton Rouge to Beijing and everywhere in between Prep has much to offer and experience.
When my sons were at Prep it was a time also to reconnect with classmates and friends who too had sons at Prep. I recently had dinner with about dozen or so of my 1976 classmates. It was a great time to reminisce about high school days and “highly outstanding” achievements back then to now share with one another the achievements of our children and (yes) grandchildren. But the achievements over years all go back to our foundation at Prep.
Recalling Black History Month programming at Prep when I attended was not as extensive as it is today. The Black Student Association at the time had about 10 – 12 members and it was moderated by Mr. Clarence Staplefoote who was the Physics instructor. Mr. Staplefoote had an imposing presence, yet was a quiet man with solid command of his classroom. He was known for his elaborate classroom experiments that, let’s say, some students didn’t grasp. Mr. Staplefoote was the only African American faculty member at the time and he may have been the first.
I can not specifically recall any Black History Month event. I do recall reciting the Martin Luther King, “I Have a Dream” speech for the Freshman Elocution Contest and placing third. And in my sophomore year writing biography essay on W.E.B. DuBois. Both meant a great deal to me and as I look back decades ago to Prep’s openness to openness and the experience for all its students to share their life experiences and learn from one another.
The work of Prep during Black History Month and throughout the year is deeply grounded in its principles to form men of character, compassion, compassion and commitment. I have seen this evidenced in history in the work of Jesuit missionary St. Peter Claver in the 17th century to bring humanity to enslaved peoples in South America much to the displeasure of all around him. Though Peter Claver had no power alone to end slavery, he, like Prep, set in place the foundations of justice and charity for the future.
In 2010 when General Colin Powell spoke to the Prep student body during Black History Month assembly, he reminded all among other themes in his talk, “What could be more important than equipping the next generation with the competence and character to become successful.” I say Prep is on the way.