Bob Devereaux '52
As someone who made a career of building, Bob Devereaux '52 is clear on where he received his foundation for future success. "St. Mary's prepared me," said Devereaux, who went on to graduate from the College of the Holy Cross. "I had the Sisters of St. Joseph and they were tough. There's no doubt in my mind that the preparation I had at St. Mary's made it an easy transition to Holy Cross."
Devereaux attributes his ability to gain admission to Holy Cross to his St. Mary's background. "The reason I got into Holy Cross was that I came out of St. Mary's with good marks," he said. "I didn't have to take the entrance exam at Holy Cross. They felt that high school is a key indicator of how you might do in life."
It certainly was in Devereaux's case. After graduating from Holy Cross, he served in the U.S. Army for two years, stationed at the Pentagon and in Germany in a top-secret capacity. He planned on going to graduate school upon being discharged, but he first went to work, landing a job at Hugh Nawn, Inc., a general contractor where his father was employed.
The company specialized in utility work, replacing steel and cast-iron gas mains with plastic piping throughout the country. Devereaux became a supervisor and was determined to "learn everything I could about the business and make as many connections as possible at the different gas companies."
When he felt he was ready to go out on his own, and with $7,500 in savings, Devereaux left Nawn and took six other employees with him as he founded Robert J. Devereaux Corporation in 1969. His dad wasn't thrilled, but it turned out to be the right move, as when Devereaux handed off control of the company to his nephew in 2012, there were more than 300 employees.
The Boston-based company still concentrates on servicing utilities, especially natural gas companies, including three of the biggest in this region: National Grid, Eversource and Columbia. When the explosions in Lawrence occurred
in September 2018, Devereaux Corp. was one of the first contractors on the scene and replaced gas mains in an entire section of the city, according to Devereaux. "We're fortunate that we have a great reputation and they reached out to us right away," he said. "We had a dozen crews working around the clock."
Devereaux, who co-founded M & X Utility, a union construction company, has also been a hard worker when it comes to helping his alma mater. He reconnected with St. Mary's in 1986 when Bill Connell '55 chaired the Future Fund and asked him for help. He then responded to a call from Msgr. Paul V. Garrity in the early 1990s. "Bob is one of the people responsible for the great turn around at St Mary's," Msgr. Garrity said. "His example gives us all great lessons in generosity. He is truly one of the great heroes of the Class of '52."
Devereaux funds scholarships for St. Mary's students from Nahant, where he grew up. He also chaired the St. Mary's Golf Open for several years and later served on the Board of Advisors.
The school honored him in 2011 with the Cardinal Cushing Award, which is annually presented to a champion of Catholic education whose life embodies the mission of St. Mary's. Devereaux is a former trustee at Emmanuel College and member of the President's Council at Holy Cross.
His generosity has not been limited to St. Mary's, as his Robert J. Devereaux Charitable Trust has benefitted dozens of charities.
Devereaux, 85, whose brother, Paul, also went to St. Mary's, took a bus from Nahant to Central Square in Lynn and walked the few blocks to Tremont Street. He had two nieces attend the school as well.