James N. Leary ’75 played two seasons of basketball with the Knights until a knee injury cut short his career, yet he stayed involved with Geneseo athletics by working in the training room his final two years. After graduation, he taught and coached in high school for four years before earning his master’s in personnel management from Lynchburg College in 1980.
That same year, his former coach at Geneseo took over the basketball program at the U.S. Naval Academy and offered Leary a position on his staff. After two years at Navy, Leary moved to Washington, D.C. and began his career as a law firm administrator. Throughout his professional life, even while moving and working for a number of different firms in both Washington and Hartford, Conn., he remained active in athletics, serving as an assistant high school girl’s basketball coach as well as a multi-year term as commissioner of the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC).
In 2000, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, one of the largest and most prestigious law firms in the world, hired Leary as its executive director. He remained in that position through 2013, when he became chief administrative officer at St. Mary’s Parish in Annapolis, Md. Two years later he returned to the field of law when he relocated to Philadelphia and took over as chief operating officer for Dechert LLP, a firm with 27 offices, 14 outside the United States, and over 900 lawyers.
Throughout the years Leary has remained in contact with his alma mater through various activities, including service as vice chair of the Geneseo Foundation Board of Directors. In March 2008 he established the James N. Leary Endowed Fund for Leadership in Athletics at Geneseo. His long-term financial commitment has allowed for the Athletics Leadership Dinner to become an annual event, one that provides current student- athletes with the opportunity to meet with and learn from former Knights willing to share their post-Geneseo professional and personal experiences.