Alumna’s desire for justice leads to career with FBI

Tue, 03/01/2011 - 4:30pm
Deanna Day
When Deanna Day ’84 was a little girl, she read every Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mystery. She later moved to the next level of thrills and suspense, diving into books by John Le Carré, Robert Ludlum and Ken Follett. She was always interested in becoming an FBI agent.

And, after graduating from Spring Hill and then completing her law degree at Saint Louis University, the former Mobile Azalea Trail Scholarship winner indeed did become an FBI agent. Day’s work has taken her into the trenches of suspense and mystery like she read about in her favorite novels.

“One of the greatest things about being an FBI agent is there are so many different types of job opportunities,” Day says. “After completing the FBI training academy at Quantico, Va., I was assigned to work as a ‘street agent,’ investigating the illegal drug trade in Phoenix, Ariz. After a few years, I was moved to foreign counterintelligence work. (That was back when the Soviet Union/Eastern Bloc was considered the country’s biggest threat.) I finished my 11 years in Phoenix working on a white-collar crime squad.”

Day was promoted to be the associate division counsel in the Dallas, Texas division of the FBI and was working in that office the morning of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

“Like most Americans, I will never forget that morning,” she says. “I will never forget the incredible dedication of every FBI employee during the days and weeks that followed 9/11. Nobody wanted to go home. We worked 14- to 16-hour days for weeks.”

After 9/11, the focus of the FBI changed to a threat-based, intelligence-driven organization, says Day, with the ultimate goal of protecting and defending the United States against terrorist and foreign intelligence threats, and to enforcing the criminal laws of the United States.

The FBI has evolved dramatically from its early days – when no women were allowed to be special agents – to become a diverse organization. The FBI has more than 33,500 employees worldwide, of which 13,514 are special agents. Approximately 2,600 women are special agents, and the total female workforce of the bureau is about 44 percent.

After Dallas, Day served as the chief division counsel of the FBI’s Tampa office, where she provided legal advice to hundreds of FBI investigators and intelligence analysts; handled legal claims for them; and provided legal opinions and input for undercover operations, arrest and search warrants, and wiretaps.

In 2008, Day requested to “step down” as Tampa’s chief division counsel and to return to Mobile to finish up her career closer to family. Day’s parents are retired. Mother Judy Day taught high school English at B.C. Rain High School, and father Ron Day was a civil engineer at Scott Paper Company. Day’s husband, Gregg Davenport ’84, is a radiologist and Spring Hill alumnus.

Upon returning to Mobile, Day has served as campus liaison agent to Mobile area colleges and universities as part of the FBI’s Field Intelligence Group. She retired in January.

“The professors at Spring Hill taught us how to think critically – to take the time to question, logically analyze, and discern things for ourselves, rather than merely taking things for granted,” Day says. “That ability to think critically was extremely important to my work in law school, in the FBI, and as an FBI attorney.

In keeping with the Jesuit tradition of service to others, Day says many members of the faculty and staff were involved in charitable activities in the Mobile community, and they encouraged students to participate and serve with them, “not only providing positive real-life examples for giving back to the community, but also allowing us to grow through those experiences,” she says.

“The classes and atmosphere at SHC further developed my already strong desire to seek truth and justice and also further developed my sense of compassion,” Day adds. “I had always been a champion for the underdog, but at Spring Hill I developed a more intense desire to help those who had been victimized.”

“The many variations of jobs as a special agent with the FBI have all given me an opportunity to serve in some fashion,” Day says. “And it is still so gratifying to meet so many dedicated and enthusiastic individuals, some taking huge pay cuts in their jobs in the private sector, to fulfill a lifelong dream to serve.”