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Trustee Hosts Diversity Dinner

B. Smith's Dinner with Dan Gasby - November 30, 2012.

Dan Gasby and students at B. Smith's restaurant in Union Station.

From top campus climate ratings for LGBT students to Newsweek ranking AU #6 among most diverse student bodies, everyone is recognizing AU’s commitment to diversity.

No one, however, is prouder of the university’s achievements and recent establishment of the Center for Diversity & Inclusion than Dan Gasby.

In honor of AU’s work with diversity, the AU Board of Trustees member and co-owner of the B. Smith’s Restaurant Group hosted almost fifty students, alumni, and staff members for dinner and discussion at his DC restaurant location.

Vice president of Campus Life Dr. Gail Hanson was on hand to thank Mr. Gasby for his generosity, which brought about connections between students and alumni of all ages.

“It was a terrific evening because the alums here had been in all the places and done so many of the things that the students here are experiencing now,” she said. “The connections were really exciting and heartwarming.”

Gasby – a television producer who has worked on shows including Jeopardy!, Wheel of Fortune, and The Oprah Winfrey Show – co-owns the restaurant with his wife B. Smith, a well known television personality, author, and groundbreaking transcultural life expert.

In his remarks to the AU group, Gasby noted the importance of hosting the dinner at the Union Station restaurant, where a relative returning from fighting in World War II was once denied the right to eat because of the color of his skin. He believes the restaurant now represents how things have come full circle for him and his family.

“I learned early on that diversity is the engine for success,” he said. “If everyone’s the same, then nothing can really change. You get knowledge, inspiration, and innovation from people who don’t see the same things you see.”

Students – many of whom shared a deep involvement with the Center for Diversity & Inclusion – echoed the importance of diversity in the reasons they chose AU and now thrive on campus.

“I love AU,” said School of Public Affairs sophomore and Iraq war veteran Keith Howard-Streicher. “I love the diversity here, the intellectual power even…[As] a veteran coming here to AU, it’s amazing. I feel like I’m getting my second wind. It’s a stepping stone to something great.”

Kogod School of Business freshman David Gonzalez noted how honored he felt to be invited to the dinner as a first-year student. For him, being singled out with an invitation speaks to the Center for Diversity & Inclusion’s personal attention to each and every student.

“It’s the home aspect away from home,” he said. “It’s a peaceful place, a place to relax and know you can have a conversation with someone where you know you’re not a number at all. They know your name, and you matter not only now but for the future. That’s important.”

In closing his remarks at the dinner, Gasby – who is vice chair of the Campus Life Committee of the Board of Trustees – stated how he is consistently proud of taking part in the university’s forward-thinking moves, such as the Center’s establishment.

“I’m very proud of being part of Campus Life because you all are the future,” he said to the group. “I’m proud of being a board member on the greatest board in the world because we try to do different things…It’s never perfect, but it’s always trying to move forward.”

Assistant vice president of Campus Life Dr. Fanta Aw reflected on the evening and how Mr. Gasby’s generosity has and will continue to inspire the students and their work toward supporting diversity at American University.

For her, it was a gift that no one – student, staff or alumni – will soon forget.

“I’m always amazed by how for those who have the ability to give, they don’t hesitate to give back. I don’t think they can imagine the ripple effect,” she said. “We’re very grateful for his generosity but more importantly for his commitment to the work that we’re doing. It speaks volumes.”