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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

How the interim chief equity official’s background prepared him to rebuild Quinnipiac’s diversity office

Aidan Sheedy
David Fryson, interim vice president for equity and inclusion, has been tasked with rebuilding the Office of Inclusive Excellence after recent turnover.

David Fryson, Quinnipiac University’s interim vice president for equity and inclusion, was hired to rebuild the university’s diversity office following several key departures. And Fryson — who grew up in the Black community of Institute in predominantly white West Virginia — has persevered through years of societal and personal challenges to get here.

From a young age, Fryson had a passion for music and always identified himself as a multifaceted musician. Once he entered Dunbar High School, a predominantly white school, Fryson formed a band with his friends and performed at local clubs. The band initially planned to go on the road, but when those plans fell through, it left Fryson conflicted about his future.

“I don’t think (Dunbar) really prepared many of us (Black students) for college life,” Fryson said.

When Fryson expressed wanting to further his education, his guidance counselor had only one thing to say: “Good luck.” That was, he said, “the extent of his high school counseling.”

Fortunately, the music department at nearby West Virginia State College persuaded Fryson — who dreamed of becoming a band director — to continue his education. 

At WVSU, Fryson balanced school and music with his family, serving as the band president at school but going home to a wife and child. 

“My wife has been one to balance us, guide us and to support us,” Fryson said.

Soon enough, the plans that fell through in high school became reality — Fryson finally had the opportunity to go on the road with his band. But when he graduated in 1979 with his bachelor’s degree in music education, his plans fell through yet again: he never became a band director.

Instead, Fryson worked for the Job Corps Center — a nonprofit educational and vocational program dedicated to helping young adults transition into employment — before working for then-West Virginia Gov. Jay Rockefeller. It was this work with government officials that sparked his realization that he could pursue a career in law.

“I felt like the law would afford me the opportunity to speak to things I really felt strongly about — equity, justice and civil rights,” Fryson said. “I felt like law school education would give me that foundation.”

Fryson and his wife had two more children before he decided to attend the West Virginia University College of Law, graduating with his law degree in 1988.

He went on to practice as a lawyer, seeking justice in the courtroom — his first case coming out of law school fought against unfair hiring practices in police and fire departments. 

But his passion for equity eventually led him to seek justice elsewhere: in the classroom.

Fryson joined West Virginia University in May 2010 as its deputy general counsel, becoming its vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion less than three years later.

Fryson stayed at West Virginia University for another nine years before retiring — he even refurbished a home and got into writing. But he soon joined The Registry, an organization that provides high-level academic leaders to colleges on an interim basis.

His first stop was Brandeis University, where he served as the interim vice president for diversity until July 2023. And in January, he found a new university to call home: Quinnipiac. 

In December 2023, Quinnipiac President Judy Olian announced the departure of Wayne Gersie, the former vice president for equity and inclusion, who returned to Michigan Tech University for personal reasons.

Over the previous six months, several prominent diversity officials left Quinnipiac. Don Sawyer — Gersie’s predecessor as vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion — left in June 2023. Daymyen Layne, former director of multicultural education and training, also left last summer. Veronica Jacobs, former associate director of multicultural education and training, left in December. And a few days after Fryson joined Quinnipiac, Sarah Hellyar, interim Title IX coordinator, announced her resignation.

“I had an opportunity,” Fryson said. “(I) saw the challenges that were here and I really thought that with the background expertise that I bring that I could really help the institution that has a commitment to diversity but at the same time is going through a challenging time.”

At the same time, Fryson has also been practicing ministry for more than 35 years, joining the church after coming off the road. 

Fryson currently serves as the senior pastor of the New First Baptist Church of Kanawha City in Charleston, West Virginia. Another pastor has been holding down the fort while Fryson is in Connecticut, but he still heads down once a month to check in.

For Fryson, establishing the Office of Inclusive Excellence means ensuring that Quinnipiac is supporting its diverse community.

“We want to make sure that as we build this house, as we continue, that it is one where (there) is true equality, true equity, true opportunities for people, no matter what their background, sexual orientation, (or) gender,” Fryson said.

Though Fryson’s path to Quinnipiac has been unique, he believes that his journey has taught him perseverance — a lesson he still applies in his work today.

“(Diversity and inclusion work) provides a help to students in terms of their life trajectory,” Fryson said. “It lets them understand that no matter what your background, orientation, gender and nationality that America was designed for there to be a place for all of us even though we haven’t always done it well … that’s the one lesson that I really would like for people that I come in contact with.”

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Aidan Sheedy
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    Col(R) Pamela D. CarterMar 9, 2024 at 1:15 pm

    This article is a message of hope during the troubled times we find ourselves in today. The political divisiveness of the day drives people apart and breeds stress and distress in all of society. An article like this helps as a reminder that trouble doesn’t last always. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and memories of your life.