Shady Side Academy's 2022 Robert E. Walker Award was awarded posthumously to Dr. Leon Haley Jr. '82 during the Senior School Homecoming assembly on Friday, Oct. 14. The award is given annually to an alumnus/a whose sustained commitment to Shady Side Academy is consistent with the vision of Mr. Robert E. Walker, a revered leader of the Academy's Alumni Office in the 1960s and 1970s.
Prior to his death in 2021, Dr. Haley was a member of Shady Side Academy's Board of Visitors, a Founders Society member, a loyal reunion attendee and an overall ambassador for SSA. Shady Side's first Black lifer, he would have celebrated his 40th reunion at this year's Homecoming.
Dr. Haley was CEO of University of Florida Health in Jacksonville, Fla., the first African-American to ever serve in that capacity. During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was the state of Florida’s most visible public health spokesperson, an inspiring advocate for the state’s vaccination efforts and the first person in Jacksonville to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Soon after Dr. Haley’s passing in the summer of 2021, Gov. Ron Desantis presented University of Florida Health with an $80 million check dedicated to the construction of a new Level 1 trauma center in Dr. Haley’s honor: The UF Health Jacksonville Leon L. Haley, Jr. M.D. Trauma Center.
At the assembly, Alex Howson '82 shared fond memories of his classmate and friend before presenting the Walker Award to Dr. Haley's son, Wesley. Several other members of the Haley family were in attendance including Dr. Haley's parents, his sister, and his nephew, current SSA freshman JT Huff.