Roy Exum: Some Good And Some Bad

Saturday, December 7, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

The trustees at the Girls Preparatory School believe they have a phenomenal new Head of School in Autumn Graves, who will become the first female in over 40 years to lead the highly-acclaimed prep school, but let me let you in on a secret -- the new “Mr. GPS” is also quite a guy.

Nini Davenport, who chairs the Board of Trustees, was obviously delighted on Thursday when she made the announcement, explaining, "We looked for a person who would build a strong sense of community on campus and champion GPS locally, nationally, and globally while upholding our high level of academic standards. (In Autumn) We found all of this, and more.”

But listen to this: Autumn’s husband Vann, once a Fulbright Scholar, is one of the top advertising executives in New York. He worked his way through Howard University and got a master’s at Pratt Institute to become the executive creative director of McCann Worldgroup, which is a huge agency with many global accounts.

The bigger thing you need to know is that right after 9/11 horrors, Vann asked for a leave-of-absence  and, intent on serving his country that had just been attacked, immediately enlisted in the U.S. Army. He fought in Iraq, earning the Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, and the rank of captain.

Both Autumn and Vann are from Richmond – Vann’s family dates all the way back to 1752 in Powhatan – but didn’t meet until after he had resumed his advertising career. In 2008 he was in New York and friends arranged a blind date. They fell in love almost immediately and a huge crowd attended their wedding two years later.

“We wanted to have the reception at the Jefferson Hotel,” he told the New York Times’ wedding editor. “It was so poignant – two black kids celebrating at a place where my grandfather W. Oscar Ford had  been a doorman at a time when African-Americans were not allowed to be guests. We ended up staying in the Presidential Suite!”

* * *

There is nothing funny about sexual assault but don’t tell that to Willie Meggs, the Tallahassee district attorney who announced on Thursday that his office would not pursue rape charges against Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston after a Dec. 2012 case was reopened. Meggs came across during the news conference as the biggest jerk this side on San Francisco when he laughed and joked his way through the announcement.

During the packed press conference ESPN’s Sam Ponder, wife of former FSU quarterback Christian Ponder, tweeted, “Anyone else uncomfortable with the amount of smiling/laughter in this press conference?”

By Friday the state attorney was roundly castigated by the nation’s media for a glaring lack of sensitivity. An angry tweet from Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill said it all: “As former prosecutor [and] advocate for rape victims I'm disgusted at the frivolity of Meggs press conference announcing no charges on Winston. The press conference was just wrong. No time to joke."

USA Today columnist Christine Brennan wrote yesterday, “Everyone seemed so incredibly happy to be talking about an alleged sexual assault. (When a reporter asked) "Was there a sexual assault?" Meggs (laughed as he replied) "Well, that's kind of why we're here."

At another point a reporter asked the state attorney, "Any idea why (the victim) was hesitant to tell you who her boyfriend was?" and the boorish man replied, “Well, tell us about your girlfriend!"

My heavens, is it any wonder that victims of sexual abuse are hesitant to come forward?

Autumn Graves, who was just named as the new Head of School at GPS, married her husband at a lavish Richmond wedding in 2010 and since Vann was awarded the Bronze Star for valor in Iraq, the two entered the ballroom under crossed sabers. Today Vann is a leading advertising executive in New York.
Autumn Graves, who was just named as the new Head of School at GPS, married her husband at a lavish Richmond wedding in 2010 and since Vann was awarded the Bronze Star for valor in Iraq, the two entered the ballroom under crossed sabers. Today Vann is a leading advertising executive in New York.

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