Alumni Spotlight: Joe DeLave '80

Joe DeLave has lived a life of treating individuals the way that he would like to be treated: with respect. It’s a principle that was ingrained in him during his time as a student at De La Salle Collegiate.

A class of 1980 graduate of De La Salle, DeLave is part of a long line of family members that have walked the hallways of the college preparatory school at one point or another. 

His wife Cathy’s father, the late Dr. John Mehall, graduated from De La Salle in 1951. DeLave’s brother-in-law, Dr. Chris Mehall, ‘80, and nephews, John Mehall, ‘11, and Eddie Mehall, ‘15, also attended DLS. Meanwhile, DeLave’s brother, Paul, and son, Joe, graduated from The Collegiate in 1987 and 2014, respectively.  

Additionally, DeLave’s late uncle, William Roccos, graduated from St. Joe’s in 1955.  

Subsequently, DeLave, by virtue of his association with the Mehall family, has a 70-plus-year history with De La Salle’s Christian Brothers. 

DeLave believes the school set him up for success throughout the rest of his life – and the Christian Brothers played a big part in that being the case. 

While a Pilot student, DeLave most notably grew close with two exemplary Lasallian men: the late Br. George Synan, FSC, and Br. Robert Deary, FSC, ‘61. 

Br. George, for one, was an important figure in both DeLave’s and his family’s life. 

DeLave’s father, Don DeLave, died after Joe’s freshman year. In response, Br. George took DeLave’s family under his wings. 

“Br. George was instrumental in my life and my family’s life,” DeLave said. “He was always looking out for me, my mom (Joan), my sister (Maureen), and my brother (Paul). He was such a great man, and embodied exactly what it means to be Lasallian.” 

Br. George, in fact, helped DeLave land his first-ever job. It was as a dishwasher at Holy Cross Hospital, located on Outer Drive in Detroit. According to DeLave, the gig “instilled a strong work ethic” in him. 

While attending De La Salle, DeLave also developed a bond with Br. Robert Deary, the 2023 Christian Brothers’ Dinner Honoree. 

One of DeLave’s best experiences as a Pilot came when Br. Robert took him and three other students on a camping trip out West. 

“We basically hit four-five, large National Parks, including Rocky Mountain National Park (in Colorado). It was a road trip that Br. Robert still talks about to this day. I had never been outside of my neighborhood prior (DeLave grew up on 6 Mile Road and Gratiot). I got homesick, and he hasn’t forgotten that to this day,” a chuckling DeLave commented. 
Br. Robert and Br. George each left an indelible mark on DeLave’s adolescent years and maturation into a man. 

“Br. Robert was a good mentor, providing practical advice, some cheerleading, and showing me great kindness,” DeLave expressed. “He’s still a friend of mine to this day. 

“As for Br. George, he made it his mission to look after my mom. He also showed me great kindness and was someone I looked up to. He was pivotal in giving me my ‘man for others’ mindset.” 

Br. Robert always knew that DeLave had a bright future. 

“Joe was a tremendous young man and an extraordinary student. I got to know him very well when he was a student and could tell back then that he had the potential to be successful,” Br. Robert said of DeLave. “Since, he’s become one of the most dedicated and loyal Pilots there is. I’m glad to be able to call him a friend.”

During his time as a Pilot, DeLave was actively involved in several extracurricular activities. He participated in both cross country and track (Br. Robert was one of his assistant coaches). And, he also was involved in student government – served as co-president his senior year with his close friend Terry Phillips – and in several play productions as a member of WAMS (the Wig and Mask Society). Along the way, he learned a vital life lesson: the importance of working hard. 

And, it helped pave the path for the next chapter of his life: being a college student at the University of Notre Dame. 

“It was absolutely instrumental,” DeLave said of his time at De La Salle. “I think the education I got at DLS helped me succeed at the University of Notre Dame. I don’t think I could’ve managed the workload at Notre Dame without De La Salle’s rigorous college prep curriculum.”

DeLave went on to graduate with honors from Notre Dame, and then obtained his J.D. (Juris Doctor) degree from the University of Notre Dame School of Law.

Upon passing the bar exam and becoming an attorney, he began working for the law firm Dickinson Wright PLLC. He remains an employee of the firm to this day, specializing in construction and real estate matters. Specifically, he’s represented both owners and contractors in a variety of construction claims and disputes. 

Despite all his professional accomplishments, DeLave has never forgotten his humble beginnings at De La Salle – the place that helped mold him into the man he is today. And so much so that today, he’s an active member of the Pilot Bar Association, De La Salle’s alumni group for lawyers, attorneys and other individuals in the field of law. 

He’s been a part of the professional group since it was founded in 2018. And, he has served in a variety of roles, ranging from being a member of the Pilot Bar Steering Committee to serving as president of the group. 

Currently, he’s a board member of the aforementioned alumni association and is focused on building up the group’s mentorship program. DeLave’s aim is simple: He would like to mold the next wave of law professionals to come out of De La Salle.   

“I volunteered to be one of the Pilot Bar Association mentors because I am always looking for a way to give back to the school, support the Bar Association, and help fellow alumni,” DeLave said. “I have been practicing law for a very long time, and believe that I can be a useful resource to either a college student or law student that wants to practice law.”
DeLave is a Lasallian man through and through, always looking to take advantage of an opportunity to serve others. 

In this present chapter of his life, he’s determined to prepare Pilots alumni for the challenges that lie ahead, both inside and outside the courtroom.

“I think it is really important for young men to have good role models in their lives and people that are willing to help them be successful in life,” DeLave said. “I certainly would like to be one of those people.” 

DeLave is an exemplary example of paying it forward and is someone that DLS students of today and tomorrow should model themselves after.   

He is, in fact, the very personification of the school’s motto: “Builders of Boys. Makers of Men.”

Alumni Spotlight: Joe DeLave '80
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