By Johnnie Grant
Dan Leroy was born in Falls Church, VA to William and Nancy Leroy.
His father’s family were non-practicing Jews with Eastern European roots. They changed their name from Levy to Leroy in the 1940s, in part to avoid the anti-Semitism that was pervasive during that time. Dan’s mother grew up in northern Virginia and taught pre-school.
Living a working-class lifestyle, Dan’s parents were active in church and the community. “My mother taught me the importance of family and friendships, and my father, an urban planner who sold commercial real estate and owned a print shop, was always volunteering on the side, trying to push for affordable housing, and housing for the elderly in our community. He taught me a sense of justice, and about the importance of working hard to make one’s community stronger and more inclusive,” said Dan.
“Growing up with four siblings was a big factor in shaping who I am today. Fairness, cooperation and spirited competition were all values I came away with. The experience taught me how to treat others, work things out, wait my turn, and fight for what I thought was fair. I also learned humility,” he adds. “There’s nothing like a big brother to put you in place when you get ahead of yourself.”
After public high school in suburban Darien, CT, most of his friends pursued professional-career tracks, but he felt called to work on environmental issues. “This probably came from my experience with the North Carolina Outward Bound School when I was in high school. That experience showed me that I had the potential to be a strong leader, and to work with others to solve problems and conflicts. I’ve always loved the outdoors and felt connected to nature — I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel the urge to protect it,” he says.
In 2007 Dan and his wife Marin (Andrus) Leroy moved to Asheville to be closer to his family who now reside in Chapel Hill. “[During Outward Bound] I fell in love with the mountains of North Carolina and have been trying to get back here since. We preferred the small-city/big-town feel of Asheville over other cities in the state. We didn’t know a soul when we moved here, but quickly fell into a strong and supportive community in West Asheville,” said Dan with a smile.
The couple strive to pass on to their sons, Leif, 9, and Kai, 6, the values that were instilled in them: an appreciation for hard work, education, diversity, and the natural world. The boys attend Evergreen Community Charter School, where Marin teaches and Dan is president of the board.
They believe that Evergreen’s holistic approach to education has a huge potential to enhance education for all children. “I’m excited to be president of the board, and to work with members, faculty, and parents,” said Dan. And, he notes, “we’re working very hard to make the school more inclusive.”
Dan, what message would you like to convey to the readers of Urban News? “The biggest message is, to recognize the urgent need to incorporate social and economic justice into environmental work. This is what led me to a more holistic definition of sustainability, social, economic, and environmental justice.”
“Also, I am very proud of the work we have done to get Green Opportunities established in Asheville. Working with DeWayne [Barton] and my other colleagues at GO has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. I ask that all people come together and take time to help make other people’s lives better,” Dan concluded.
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.