Vice President for DEI recognized at 2024 Diamond Awards
On January 27, Avery Staley, LR’s inaugural vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) appeared among the recipients of the eighth annual Diamond Awards, a who’s who of leaders who champion DEI causes around the nation. Staley received a Diamond Award for Lifetime Achievement in DEI, based on his work at Lenoir-Rhyne and with North Carolina’s state government.
“I am very humbled to receive this honor,” said Staley. “I work with some amazing people who also deserve credit for making this happen. While we don’t execute this work for self-gratification, it’s nice to know that people recognize and appreciate our efforts.”
The Diamond Awards Ceremony, held in the Martin Luther King, Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse College in Atlanta, was presented by the Not Alone Foundation – a non-profit that provides education, resources and support for patients of chronic kidney disease (CKD).
Staley had no working experience with the Not Alone Foundation before his selection to receive a Diamond Award, but he praised the foundation’s mission.
“I think the Not Alone Foundation’s work is critical in addressing the needs of persons with chronic kidney disease and has impacted many who suffer from its challenges. The foundation also serves as a resource to assist with challenges for patients and their families dealing with End Stage Renal Disease,” he said.
Other notable honorees included actors Phylicia Rashad and Glynn Turman, civil rights activist Xernona Clayton and a distinguished list of names from higher education, corporate leadership, spiritual leadership, philanthropy and first response team members. Distinguished presenters included Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia, actress Paula Patton and Lenoir-Rhyne president Fred K. Whitt, Ed.D., who presented the award to Staley during the ceremony.
“In his two years at Lenoir-Rhyne, Avery has helped build a program we are incredibly proud of, that ensures a welcoming and engaging climate for all,” said Whitt. “He has started a DEI Council focused on policies and training and the Inclusion Champions program that has student, faculty and staff volunteers from every division on campus. He started the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Prayer Breakfast, which welcomed 300 people last month.”
Staley’s other duties at Lenoir-Rhyne include overseeing human resources, Title IX, disability services, and multicultural affairs – a university office that upholds DEI practices in student services, employment practices and daily operations.
“On a daily basis, I help provide leadership at Lenoir Rhyne University to our students, faculty and staff, so we can give a top-rate education,” Staley shared. “We are committed to recruiting students from all backgrounds, and sustaining a campus where they can grow, develop and graduate, to become productive and impactful citizens in their chosen fields.”
The Diamond Award is the most recent in a career record studded with honors for Staley. After graduating from West Charlotte High School, he completed his bachelor’s degree at North Carolina Central University, where he was elected class president and received the award for outstanding student leadership in his first year and served as vice president of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. While completing his J.D. at Vermont Law School, he received the President’s Award for Academic Excellence, was awarded the NAACP Legal Defense Fund Scholarship and appeared in “Who’s Who in American Law Students 2005”.
Whitt’s remarks also referenced Staley’s long record in government and politics, starting with his first job out of college as a juvenile counselor with the North Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice. After completing his M.A. at Winthrop University in liberal arts, Staley served as campaign manager for former U.S. Rep. Mel Watt of North Carolina’s 12th congressional district.
In 2008, Staley served as senior advisor and special counsel to former North Carolina Lieutenant Gov. Walter Dalton. In 2022, Gov. Roy Cooper appointed Staley to the North Carolina Internship Council. Locally, Staley serves on the Catawba County Commission on Equity in Health as well as the boards of the United Way of Catawba County and the Western Piedmont Symphony.
“I have always been driven to serve,” said Staley. “Whether volunteering, serving on boards, or simply sharing advice or experiences, I’ve had a lifelong commitment to helping others. I am a strong believer that you cannot teach passion, and I live by the mantra, ‘never fail for lack of effort.’”