In Memory: Tributes to past civil liberties leaders

Adrienne Gavula 1982 – 2017

Adrienne Gavula

Adrienne Gavula, a longtime colleague, passionate civil libertarian, and friend—passed away unexpectedly on September 2, 2017. Adrienne began working for the ACLU of Ohio in 2004, and later served as regional office director of our Columbus office and then development director.

As a student at Ohio University, Adrienne first became involved with the ACLU when a speaker came to campus and sparked her interest in civil liberties. She immediately became involved with the ACLU student chapter and served as their public relations director, where she planned events on topics ranging from the USA Patriot Act to access to reproductive healthcare. When she graduated, she moved to Cleveland and was hired by the ACLU of Ohio as a field organizer, where she worked with activists from Akron to Marietta to advance justice and liberty.

Adrienne left the organization in 2009 to pursue her master’s degree in social work at Ohio State University. Her social work education only deepened Adrienne’s compassion and understanding of social justice. She was incredibly proud of being a social worker, and later on in her career served as a mentor to students from OSU’s social work program.

After becoming a licensed social worker, Adrienne worked as a medical case manager at Columbus AIDS Task Force where she helped improve clients’ quality of life through access to medical care, counseling, and housing. She also served as associate director for The National Association of Social Workers Ohio Chapter, an organization dedicated to advancing and protecting social workers and the clients they serve.

In 2013, she rejoined the ACLU of Ohio in the Columbus office as regional director. Adrienne’s leadership helped grow the Columbus office into a powerful presence in central Ohio, and she led important campaigns that merged her passion for civil liberties and social work. In 2015, she transitioned to development director, where she was able to share her deep love of the ACLU of Ohio with donors and members across the state, and ensure the organization was able to stay strong and effective.

Adrienne was a fearless advocate for people with disabilities. She utilized her background as a social worker to take on the use of solitary confinement on people with mental illness. As a result of her tireless activism, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction committed to no longer housing people with serious mental illnesses in long-term solitary confinement—a major victory. In 2015, she also launched an innovative pilot program in Dayton to assist voters who used American Sign Language with obtaining a translator during early in-person voting.

Adrienne also cared deeply about advancing reproductive freedom in Ohio; she served on the Freedom of Choice Ohio Coalition and as chair, board member, and current volunteer for Women Have Options, Ohio’s abortion access fund.

Previously, she volunteered as a health educator at Planned Parenthood of Northeast Ohio and as a facilitator for eating disorder support groups at The Center for Balanced Living.

In her personal life, Adrienne was an avid sports fan. She travelled with her family yearly to the Pittsburgh Steelers training camp, and fiercely defended her beloved Steelers from any gentle ribbing from Cleveland Browns fans in the office.

Noted social worker Jane Addams’ words ring true:

“What after all, has maintained the human race on this old globe despite all the calamities of nature and all the tragic failings of mankind, if not faith in new possibilities, and courage to advocate them.”

Adrienne’s life taught us much about empathy, courage, and determination. She always believed in the basic decency of every person, and never lost hope for a better world.

A celebration of Adrienne’s life was held Friday September 8th, 2017 at Stillman Hall at the The Ohio State University College of Social Work.


Memorial contributions in Adrienne’s name may be made to Women Have Options – Ohio (http://www.womenhaveoptions.org/), P.O. Box 1611, Columbus, OH 43216.

Watch this brief news story on Channel 10 Columbus, with remembrances of Adrienne by longtime colleague Mike Brickner.


Adrienne’s Obituary can be read here.

Listen to an interview about Adrienne with ACLU chief lobbyist Gary Daniels on WOSU Radio – Columbus.