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Virginian Ray Paul Becomes Chair of National Board of Directors at American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

April 14, 2023 – 3 min read


Dark blue banner with lifesavers

Richmond, Virginia - (April 14, 2023) - During National Volunteer Week (April 16-22), the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), the nation’s leading suicide prevention organization, is honored to highlight Ray Paul, M. Jr.’s appointment to chair of the National Board of Directors. Paul joined the organization during a time of great expansion and will serve up to three years in the role.

“One of AFSP’s greatest transitions in the past few years has been our diversity. We are wrapping our arms around different communities in this country whose losses are equal, and all painful,” Paul shared. “We’re creating an organization that every day is able to embrace communities that we weren’t in a position to do ten years ago. I want this to be ever-growing.”

A respected business leader with over 35 years of experience at Universal Leaf Tobacco Company in Richmond, Virginia, Paul will oversee the efforts of AFSP’s 29-member Board and the implementation of the organization’s bold new strategic plan. Paul has served as an AFSP volunteer for over a decade.

“We are honored to have Ray Paul serve as board chair. He has been a leader in AFSP’s volunteer network and has contributed invaluable insight and time as a member of our National Board,” said AFSP Chief Executive Officer Robert Gebbia. “We appreciate Ray’s continued efforts to help AFSP realize its mission of saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide.”

Paul became involved with AFSP after the loss of his son Buck to suicide in 2012. Buck was 25 years old, “The kind of son everyone would love to have,” Paul noted. “He loved everyone, and everyone loved him.” 

Alongside his wife, Tyler, and daughter Margaret, Paul participated in the Wilmington, North Carolina Out of the Darkness Walk in 2012. Margaret, who was based in Wilmington, was moved to advocate for suicide prevention after Buck’s death. Paul said that at the Walk they “found a family of people that had been through loss -- people like us.” 

Paul returned from the Walk and immediately got involved with AFSP’s Virginia Chapter participating in local events for International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day and national efforts like becoming a champion for AFSP's goal to reduce the suicide rate in the U.S. 20% by 2025. Paul has served on the board advisory committee that develops strategies aimed at attaining the goal, and he and his family have also contributed financially to help support this initiative. Paul joined the National Board in 2014 and has previously served as the National Board’s vice chair and secretary.

“Being elected chair of the Board has humbled me to no end. I consider it a great honor and dedicate this position to the memory of our son Buck,” said Paul.

In his new position, Paul will focus on leading the implementation of AFSP’s new strategic plan that has been collaboratively created by the National Board, management team and staff. “Our plan is a roadmap for growth, but while we grow, we will also ensure that we maintain the family feel and streamlined operating structure that we currently enjoy,” said Paul. “Another important goal is making health equity a priority reflected by culturally relevant educational programs and funding research to better understand suicide in all and underserved communities that will lead to prevention and support of survivors of suicide loss.” He says it is critical that AFSP maintains its position as a financially strong organization with superior charity ratings.  


 The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide, including those who have experienced a loss. AFSP creates a culture that’s smart about mental health through public education and community programs, develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those affected by suicide. Led by CEO Robert Gebbia and headquartered in New York, with a public policy office in Washington, DC, AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states including Puerto Rico, with programs and events nationwide. Learn more about AFSP in its latest Annual Report, and join the conversation on suicide prevention by following AFSP on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

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