"I need to see you in my office,” Elmer Dixon, President of Executive Diversity Services recalled telling Andy Reynolds, when they worked together at the Seattle Park District. Andy was in the media relations department. Elmer was the EEOC officer. “We've had a harassment complaint against you,” Elmer told him.
Anyone who knows Andy would know that this was probably impossible. You would also know that it was something he took very seriously.
About those shiny shoes...
“What was the complaint?” Andy asked as he sat down in Elmer’s office. Elmer repeated the concerns that had been brought forward: “You wear too much cologne and your shoes are too shiny.” At Andy’s inquisitive look, Elmer clarified. Someone had expressed concern that his shoes were so shiny that if he stood too close, he would be able to see under their skirt in the reflection.
Diversity and Inclusion is serious business. Our job and mission in life is to protect people against harassment. That said, Andy was always someone who knew how to bring laughter and levity into serious situations, and this was one for the laughter books. “I don’t know if they were serious, but cut the cologne and scuff up your shoes just in case,” Elmer counseled.
Andy passed away on Sunday February 7 after a 14-month battle with cancer.
Prior to joining the Seattle Park District Andy had been a long-time reporter with KING5TV in Seattle and had worked for the Seattle Opportunity Industrialization Center. Andy joined his wife, Donna Stringer, along with Linda Taylor and Elmer Dixon as business partners in Executive Diversity Services shortly after it launched in 1987. He worked here until retiring in 2008.
A Joyful Spirit
Elmer remembered Andy’s joyful spirit. “He had his own unique sense of humor and a bellowing laugh to go along with it.” From Andy, Elmer learned how you can still be serious, but at the same time keep it light. Andy loved jazz and good food. “Our work is serious but there’s always time to look at the brighter lighter side of life,” said Elmer. Remembering those shiny shoes still makes Elmer smile.
A Man of Integrity
Andy grew up in the south, in North Carolina, during the civil rights movement. “He had a strong sense of integrity and standing up for the rights of others,” said Elmer, citing one of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” That idea resonated in Andy’s work and his life travels. In all he strove to understand the nuances of other cultures, trying new things without judgment. For Andy, if it was integral to understanding another culture, he wanted to experience it.
Collaborative and Client Focused
Each member of the original EDS owners brought something special to the team. Andy brought his background and expertise in marketing and sales from his work in broadcasting, which was a valuable asset. “With our diverse backgrounds, we challenged each other to push the limits of our collective creativity,” said Elmer. “Andy’s legacy still permeates all that we do at EDS. We all made sure that a client’s needs came first, but Andy had a higher sense of that, that went above and beyond. That’s the legacy that EDS continues to hold on to,” said Elmer.
“Andy was a visionary,” said Donna, his life partner of 40 years and business partner for 21 years. “He always envisioned something bigger, thinking two to five years ahead.” And “he was an extraordinary trainer,” she added, noting his natural ability to connect and partner with whoever he was training.
Donna and Andy met shortly after she moved to Seattle in 1981 to be the Director of the City’s Office of Women’s Rights. One of her first actions was to establish an advisory panel as she set about to create the first city-wide survey of sexual harassment in the country. Her contact at City Council recommended Andy Reynolds. “I need to prepare you for these interviews,” Andy had warned her. As they spent time together at work, he suggested that they should socialize. “Andy’s very best friend was gay, so I assumed he was gay,” Donna smiles at the memory. “We lived together for 29 years until we got married 11 years ago.” (They had decided intentionally not to get married until their gay and lesbian friends could get married.)
A Mentor to Others
“What continues to impress me, and I know he was proud of this as well, is the number of people he mentored, whether officially or unofficially. It was important to Andy to advocate for and sponsor young people,” said Donna. “But I think the number of people who have shared how he touched their lives, across over 500 emails, cards, and four memorials, is overwhelming. When it comes down to it, we really never know how we touch people.”
Generosity and Inclusion
“A major theme of Andy’s life was generosity and inclusion of other people,” said Donna, recalling a regular, everyday trip to the grocery store. Andy drove and waited outside while Donna ran in. On the way out she gave change to a man who was homeless and often in front of the store. When she got in the car, Andy told her his name, his whole story. Because he had taken the time to ask. “Andy saw not just someone who was homeless. He saw a person. And that’s how he approached everyone.”
Written by Elmer Dixon