By Ginger DeShaney
After 18 years at the helm of the Edgerley Family South Boston Boys & Girls Club, Executive Director Harry Duvall is going to be exploring opportunities in international aid relief and cultural exchange.
He will be with the Club through the end of December and leaves it in terrific shape. His decision “just kind of coalesced inside me,” he said recently, in terms of the timing being right.
“There was no crisis of faith, no big soul searching, no plotting,” he said. “It was very naturally, like, oh, maybe this and maybe this and then, it’s time, let’s go.”
While Harry doesn’t have a degree in international relations, his resume is strong and his skills are transferable. He has a couple of church-based projects he’s affiliated or familiar with in the Caribbean/Cuba, and he’s going to start there.
Harry will be greatly missed in South Boston. “Harry’s commitment to the Club has been truly inspiring and uplifting,” said Pattie McCormick, Associate Director of Development.
“As a kid from Needham who was familiar with the tight-knit South Boston community through sports — along with his leadership role at a BGCA Club in California, we knew he had the tools to lead the Edgerley Family South Boston Club. However, he went above and beyond.”
Pattie cited Harry overseeing the major renovation that enables the Club to provide state-of-the-art programs and his work in helping maintain Club membership goals during the gentrification of South Boston in which the population of youth ages 18 and under plummeted.
“With very big thanks to Harry, the Club remains South Boston’s largest serving youth program and has something for everyone,” Pattie said. “May the wind always be at your back, Harry!”
Anne Gordon, the Club’s former Arts Director, said: “As Harry was always encouraging to staff and Club members, I will encourage him to ‘Be Great’ in whatever path his life takes.”
Gerry Vierbickas, an advisory board member for 38 years, knows Harry well. “In his nearly 20 years, I’ve never seen Harry be anything but completely invested in all the youth who walk through the Club’s doors,” he said. “For such a demanding position, he has never appeared bored or jaded in any way. On the multiple issues that we discuss, he has always been fully knowledgeable and thoroughly engaged … An example to all in the clubhouse to make a positive difference in so many lives. We are all truly sorry to see him move on but can only wish him the very best of luck in his new endeavor.”
Harry preferred to talk about his years with the Club and not his departure.
“South Boston is a great community,” he said. “I have been very lucky! Our Club has had a great staff, terrific non-profit and school partners, wonderful families and parents, and amazing young people.”
The highlights for Harry?
“It’s always the kids,” he said. “The kids are just so great.”
He was recently telling some of the kids about his departure and talking about new growth, new experiences, and trying new things. One 9- or 10-year-old told him, in all seriousness and with great emphasis: “Good for you!”
It was endearing, Harry said.
Another youth member told him: “I hope you have a wonderful life after you leave.”
Another highlight? The staff has been incredible, and he said he’s been lucky to work with them.
“The work itself, doing this job, has been a blessing,” he said. “But having the staff that I’ve had to work with has been a true gift.”
Harry will take a million memories with him in his new adventure. “My best memories are of how the Club impacts kids and supports them,” he said.
“It’s just the joy of the place,” he said. “The environment is very joyful. And that’s what we try to promote is a sense of belonging and a sense of inclusion, a sense of possibility.
“That’s something that we try to instill. I guess you could call it the culture … that’s the air you breathe when you’re here. This is how it feels, how the Club feels.”
He will miss the unexpected, unscripted moments that come with the job, where a staff member may tell a story about a youth or kids will be doing something together.
“It’s those kind of organic moments that pop up that make you feel good about the Club, good about the work, but maybe hopeful about the bigger scenario.”
Harry was in the teen education room recently and noticed a youth who seemed a bit sad. “And she just kind of leaned her head over onto her friend’s shoulder … they’re doing their homework together. And just the way that she was able to literally put her head on her friend’s shoulder and her friend leaned a little teeny bit in that direction … Those moments are very uplifting.”
The teens at the Club are so supportive of each other and so welcoming, encouraging, and caring. “And so those are the things that I’m sure I’ll miss the most,” said Harry.
Harry graduated from Colgate University, where he was a standout hockey player, with a BA in economics. He got his Master’s degree in education administration from Boston College while working at Mt. Ida College in admissions and then student support services. After nine years at Mt. Ida, he moved to California to be near family. After connecting with a former Mt. Ida colleague, who then connected him to another friend, the trio started up an arts program, building a curriculum and eventually partnering with the Boys & Girls Club in Northern San Diego County. After a couple of years, Harry joined a Boys & Girls Club in California before helming the South Boston Club.
As Harry prepares for the next chapter, there’s no nervousness, just excitement. “There’s a very strong sense of this is what I’m supposed to do … this is the right thing for me at the right time.”
But Harry pointed out: “I’ve never loved the Club here in South Boston more than I do right now. I’ve never believed in the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston and our leadership more than I do right now. The momentum is strong. We’ve got great leadership. We’ve got great new ideas, new programming to expand and enhance what we were already doing so it can be of more service to the community.”