Mentoring and volunteering has always been second nature to Deary Duffie MBA ’84. The son of a US Army soldier, Duffie was born in the Pacific Northwest and has lived in Mannheim, Germany; Buffalo, New York; and Atlanta, Georgia. After his father retired, the family moved to East Oakland. During his corporate career, Duffie worked in Silicon Valley, Brazil, Belgium, Switzerland, Singapore, China, and Italy. Now he spends part of the year in Tuscany.
A standout student at Fremont High School, Duffie was recruited by and received a scholarship from national organization A Better Chance to attend The Athenian School, a private boarding school in Danville. The academic rigor was at another level; Duffie knew that he had a lot of catch-up work to do.
During college, Duffie was a scholar-athlete at UC Riverside. “Close enough to family, but far enough to develop my independence,” he says. Duffie attributes his multitasking mastery to his time at Riverside: morning volleyball practice, classes until 4 p.m., then a volleyball match. He was selected for the varsity squad and named the team’s “most valuable player,” traveling the western US for matches. Coaches, fellow players, and professors immediately recognized Duffie’s natural leadership abilities. He became the student assistant coach of the women’s volleyball team and ran one of the undergraduate dormitories housing 900 students.
“I don’t like to say that I’m retired. I’m experiencing my renaissance.”
With so many interests, Duffie satisfied his curiosity by studying mathematics, liberal studies, and African American history. He graduated cum laude and returned to The Athenian School as a math teacher, dorm parent, and coach for the volleyball and basketball teams.
A mentor recommended that he go back to school and pursue an MBA. After completing an intense application process with some of the top schools in the country, Duffie selected UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. At Haas, he found a rigorous, friendly, team-oriented environment. As one of only five Black students in his class, Duffie wanted to make sure that more Black students could see themselves succeed in an MBA program. He co-chaired the Black Business Student Association, which brought diverse executives and thought leaders to speak with the Haas community. Duffie took advantage of The Washington Campus’s summer program to determine if he wanted to go into organizational psychology or become a lobbyist. He learned quickly that he was meant to go the business route.
After a successful career working as a mathematics teacher, athletic coach, and HR executive for Levi Strauss & Company, Genentech, Hewlett Packard, and Charles Schwab, Duffie brought his whole self to his consulting business. Duffie provides leadership coaching for corporate executives, conducts anti-racism training for educators, facilitates career-coaching workshops for people navigating a COVID-related job loss, and serves on multiple nonprofit boards. Duffie is also an active Cal Alumni Association volunteer, providing career guidance to recent Cal graduates and Alumni Scholars Program students. He is an adviser for the African American Initiative, supporting recruitment and selection.
Today, he and his partner split their time between Italy and the Bay Area. He was drawn to Castiglioncello’s “chill” pace, natural Tuscan beauty, and easy access to the warm waters of the Ligurian Sea. But don’t mistake his “life-work” balance for retirement. “I don’t like to say that I’m retired. I’m experiencing my renaissance.”