GETTING TO KNOW: Roy Sexton

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Roy Sexton leads Clark Hill’s marketing, branding, and communications efforts, collaborating with the firm’s team of marketing and business development professionals.

Sexton has nearly 20 years of experience in marketing, communications, business development, and strategic planning, having worked at Deloitte Consulting, Oakwood Healthcare (now Beaumont), Trott Law (formerly Trott & Trott), St. Joseph Mercy Health System, and Kerr Russell PLC. He has been heavily involved regionally and nationally in the Legal Marketing Association as a board member, content expert, and presenter. He is treasurer-elect currently for the Legal Marketing Association’s Midwest Regional Board of Directors. He was named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly “Unsung Legal Hero” in 2018.

Sexton earned his bachelor’s degree from Wabash College, and holds two master degrees: an MA in theatre from Ohio State University and an MBA from the
University of Michigan. He is a graduate of Leadership Detroit and Leadership A2Y, was a governor-appointed member of the Michigan Council of Labor and Economic Growth, and was appointed to the Michigan Mortgage Lenders Association Board of Governors in 2012.

He currently sits on the boards of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Ann Arbor, Royal Starr Film Festival, Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit, and encoremichigan.com, and is a past member of many other nonprofit boards and committees. He is a published author with two books: “Reel Roy Reviews,” Volumes 1 and 2.

By Jo Mathis
Legal News

What would surprise people about your job?
I have a theatre background, and I think people would be surprised how well that has prepared me for this work. I feel like the stage manager of the best show every day. My job is to feature talent, sometimes boost confidence, sometimes rein in scenery chewing, read the audience, and help my firm always put its best foot forward. I’m lucky that I work for such an exceptional organization—it makes my job an absolute pleasure.

Favorite local hangouts?
I’m a movie and comic book nerd, so if you don’t find me onstage somewhere, I’m either at Emagine Theatres or Vault of Midnight.

What is your most treasured material possession?
Every day I wear a ring bequeathed to me by my grandfather Roy Duncan, for whom I was named. It reads “1900,” and it was his mother’s college ring. She graduated that year and went on to be a successful educator. I think that’s a remarkable accomplishment at a time when that couldn’t have been terribly easy, and I adored my grandfather. It reminds me to be caring and compassionate and playful and joyous. Those were his hallmarks, which I also gained from my mother as well.

What is your proudest moment as director of marketing?
Clark Hill is such a large and complex organization, but the humanity and accessibility here define my experience. To be surrounded by such intelligent people who also place a value on culture is important. The fact that I’ve become acclimated in such a short time, hopefully appreciated, and not fired yet … well, I’m thrilled!

What is your biggest take-away as a graduate of Leadership Detroit?
I grew up in Indiana, and I moved to Detroit in 1999 to work at Deloitte. It took me a few years to get acclimated to the region, but I always struggled a bit feeling connected to the business and nonprofit community. Leadership Detroit gave me an instant network of kindred spirits. I’m so grateful for the friends I made there. We will meet and commiserate regularly, and I will say that the experience helped me feel “authentic” and to appreciate the remarkable beauty and diversity of this city and region.

What was always written on your grade school report card?
LOL. “Doesn’t always raise his hand when he wants to speak.” Some things never change. And my second grade teacher Mrs. Edwards said I needed to learn humility. I didn’t know what that word meant—and I still don’t.

What is your happiest childhood memory?
I was raised by progressive, caring, attentive parents. They engaged the world with kindness and inclusion and sensitivity—a world that didn’t always know how to reciprocate. Nonetheless, my favorite childhood memories were learning from and alongside my parents. They taught me how to study, how to write, how to think creatively, how to never miss an opportunity, and how to explore.  I’m grateful every day for the life skills they taught me by example.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received?
Oh, heavens. I never remember the nice things people say. I do remember a friend told me I reminded her of Steve Buscemi. I still have no idea what to think of that! I will say I have no bigger fans than my husband and my mom and my dad. They always have kind things to say and have given me a beautifully inflated sense of self.

What do you wish someone would invent?
A machine that can add about three hours to every day AND make me feel like I get nine hours of sleep when I actually get five or six. Oh, and the world’s biggest no-kill animal shelter where any and all stray animals can live out their lives if they don’t have the good fortune to be adopted by loving families.

When you look back into the past, what do you miss most?
Unencumbered days that stretch on to infinity. That feeling at the beginning of winter break or summer vacation where you feel like you have limitless possibilities and zero responsibilities. I don’t know if kids still experience that, but I’m grateful that I grew up in an era where my mom and I could go to the community pool, stay all day, swim and relax, go for long bike rides after, and not think about 24/7 expectations and demands.

If you could have witnessed any event in history, what would it be?
I would love to have been in the room when Siegel and Shuster created Superman or Simon and Kirby devised Captain America. These comic book artists were children of immigrants and worked in a marginalized profession, yet crafted two iconic, quintessentially American characters. It seems small of me. I should say “Washington crossing the Delaware” or something. But as someone who adores these characters and what they represent and how they transformed a culture, I would love to witness those moments of creation.

What were you doing in your last selfie?
I think it was at the Auto Show with my colleagues working what felt like 36-hour days and having the time of our lives.

What’s at the top of your bucket list?
Read all the books I’ve picked up on sale tables over the years thinking “one day I’ll actually have time to read them.”

Who is on your guest list for the ideal dinner party?
Madonna, Stephen Colbert, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Hugh Jackman, Anderson Cooper, Rachel Maddow, and Meryl Streep. Maybe Tracey Ullman, too. I like fun and funny, vibrant people who don’t hold back.

What question do you most often ask yourself?
What would life be like if I’d taken acting or singing seriously?  But I love my life as it is and I get to explore those skills regularly. And I can pay my mortgage. So I think I’m good.

If you could trade places with someone for a day, who would that be?
I think it would be great fun to trade places with a pop star for one day—someone like Robbie Williams (who is criminally obscure over here) but who seems to have great adventures performing for arenas and being generally cheeky without any consequences.

What’s the most awe-inspiring place you’ve ever been?
I spent a summer in Tokyo in high school. It was a program sponsored by the Japanese government and the U.S. Senate. They chose two students from each state to live with host families. I’d only been on a plane once before that trip, so everything in Japan was awe-inspiring: the scale, the crowds, the heritage, the whimsy, the culture. It was a life-changing experience and helped take a heretofore nervous Hoosier and make him a little braver and a little bolder.

What’s something you changed your mind about recently?
We live in such a combative moment politically, and I don’t want to cause trouble here, but I think I’ve decided to really try to empathize and understand differing viewpoints on issues. I’ve been rather quick to judge others when they seem diametrically opposed to me, and I’m not sure that’s healthy. I can physically feel the discomfort I create for myself wanting to argue, and I don’t much want to do that anymore.

What is one thing you would like to learn to do?
I wish I’d taken piano more seriously. I can read music, but just barely. And I envy someone who can just sit down, play a few numbers, entertain a crowd, and then saunter off.

What is something most people don’t know about you?
I wish I was more circumspect. I think I spill my guts every chance I get. That said, I don’t know that everyone knows I’ve been writing since I was a little kid. I won the national PTA Reflections writing contest three or four years in a row, wrote for my local newspaper in high school (a column called “AdoleSENSE”), and maintain a blog of movie and culture reviews (reelroyreviews.com) that has been turned into two books. I think people have seen windows of that writing life over the years, but don’t realize it’s more or less been a constant.

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