Sherry Weaver Reflects on Diversity, Inclusion, and Her Time at Washington College of Law
After 29 years at American University Washington College of Law, Sherry Weaver is saying goodbye to the law school, and hello to retirement. Weaver, director of the Office of Diversity Services, has been what she calls “semi-retired” for about four months now, but will stay on in a part-time capacity for the near future.
While Weaver trained to teach college English, she stopped teaching when she tired of reading papers for credit. She wished students would write simply because they loved to write, rather than for grades. While there were moments in her life where she thought she wanted to be a “great scholar,” after she started diversity work she was “pretty much hooked.”
“I like the people and the work, I love the students,” said Weaver, when asked about what she will miss most about AUWCL. “It’s a ‘what’s not to like’ sort of situation – you get to work with good people, and something you believe in.”
Her many years of commitment to diversity certainly did not go unnoticed by students and staff alike, and most recently she was awarded the American University Black Alumni Alliance Award for her “exceptional work and service to advance the global black community” during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Reception.
“It was just nice to be recognized for the work that you’ve done,” said Weaver. “You do your work and don’t think of it as something to be awarded for, but when someone says you did well, it’s a surprise and an honor. It’s something I’ll remember for a long time.”
Each year, Weaver has been instrumental in organizing the annual Martin Luther King tribute and Sylvania Woods Conference on African Americans and the Law, among other AUWCL traditions. "Thanks in no small part to the tremendous work of Sherry Weaver over decades, diversity and inclusion are core values at American University Washington College of Law. Our law school would not be the same without her many years of dedicated work in service of building a community that is deeply anchored in principles of justice and equality for all. Sherry has shared her brilliant mind, and generous heart, with our law school and university. She will be missed, but never forgotten - our school is stronger, wiser, and more inclusive because of her dedicated service,” said Dean Camille Nelson.
Aside from her work at the law school, Weaver says some of her most rewarding time was spent at the Southeast Campus at Trinity Washington University. At Trinity, Weaver worked with women who came up through the D.C. public school system and had difficult lives. These women had a profound impact on Weaver, for whom she believes college had real meaning.
While she loved her work at Trinity, she decided to fully focus her efforts on diversity and inclusion. She noted how worthwhile her diversity work at AUWCL has been over the years, specifically the process of watching her students work through three years of law school.
“It’s very rewarding watching them through their three years and how they almost completely change in many ways. They become confident and wise…you get to see their evolution, you get to see them make it, and it doesn’t get much better than that.”
She noted that the most rewarding thing about her job was that she didn’t have to fight to do diversity work while at AUWCL. “It’s not an uphill climb,” she said. “[Diversity is] part of the fabric of this institution.”
After an impressive career and 52 years in the workforce, she believes the best part of retirement will be the freedom.
However, just because Weaver is retiring does not mean she wouldn’t come back to AUWCL one day. The one thing she would love to help with again in the future is a repeat of the Conference on Women of Color & the Law that she helped organize several years ago.
As for the future of Diversity Services, Weaver has several ideas about what is necessary to further promote diversity in the 21st century and also had some ideas about what a good replacement for her would be like. “It should be someone who is law-trained,” she added. “The world is a very different place and diversity means a lot more, includes a lot more people.”
She hopes that the position will go to someone close in in age to the students, but said she will be fine with and support whomever AUWCL chooses to replaces her. “Diversity has changed over time so the efforts toward diversity need to change as well. I’m old enough to remember white-only signs in Virginia, and we’ve come a long long way since that – but it’s a bigger playing field now, and this office needs someone who can take that on. We’ve moved beyond that and we’re not going back, so now we need someone who can move onto something else for the future.”
“It’s important that the office is here, not just for students of color, but that it exists to serve a purpose for everyone,” she said. “Maybe there will be a day when an office like this isn’t needed, and that will be a great day, but for now it’s important, and there needs to be a place for people to go where they can have the conversation.”