Personal Secretary for Former First Lady Nancy Reagan
CLASS OF 1980
After graduating from Washington & Jefferson College, Louise Bell Devanny landed the opportunity of a lifetime in the White House—sorting mail. Although it seemed like an unusual route, it was not long before Devanny became the personal secretary for former First Lady Nancy Reagan. For five and a half years, Devanny worked with Mrs. Reagan, traveling the world, implementing official protocol, and promoting important political and social issues. Her connection with the Reagan family remains strong today. When President Reagan died, Devanny assisted with the funeral arrangements, and she still regularly sees the First Lady.
Devanny’s father, a 1945 alumnus of W&J, was the one who encouraged her to attend the College. But, of course, the College had changed a good bit since he was a student. When Devanny arrived, W&J was still adjusting to the arrival of women, and there were few social opportunities for them. To remedy this situation, Devanny became one of the founders of the Delta Gamma sorority. She also worked on the yearbook and played field hockey.
In the classroom, she appreciated the guidance of professors like Dr. Nicholas Cavoti, who was devoted to students and guided them in understanding how psychology shapes human behavior. “W&J professors didn’t just stand in front of the room and recite Shakespeare,” she says. “They all were excellent teachers. They inspired you to work hard.” Returning to W&J for alumni events, Devanny is glad to see that the strong sense of community has remained unchanged.
Today, Devanny remains active in the political arena. She spends much of her time consulting and planning conferences and events for various organizations. She also is involved with many boards and organizations in the D.C. metropolitan area, offering her support to the Annapolis Womenade program, Daughters of the American Revolution, the Annapolis Symphony, and Historic Homes.
Much of Devanny’s success results from following her personal philosophy to “work hard and play hard,” a lesson that she says she first learned as a student at W&J.