DeShields, 56, who is openly gay, formerly served as the managing director of business development for Temple University’s Fox School of Business and School of Tourism Hospitality Management. He begins his new position April 14.
The Philadelphia native earned an associate’s degree in hotel and restaurant management and a bachelor’s in hospitality management from Johnson & Wales University.
The Multicultural Affairs Congress, a division of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau, was founded in 1987 to attract more diverse visitors to Philadelphia.
DeShields worked for Temple for 13 years — 10 as senior director of corporate relations at the School of Tourism Hospitality Management and three with both the tourism school and the Fox School of Business.
During his tenure with Temple, he led initiatives to engage the tourism school with diverse groups across the region, including those in the LGBT community.
DeShields said his experience in both the tourism and business industries showed him how integral diversity is.
“It helped me get a broader understanding of how important diversity is on how to get business done,” he said. “The experience has given me more confidence and creative, innovative ideas.”
DeShields is a member of the Independence Business Alliance and a board member of the Philadelphia Gay Tourism Caucus.
He is certified as a hospitality educator by the American Hotel Lodging Association.
DeShields discovered the Multicultural Affairs Congress more than 20 years ago when he, then a hotel employee, attended a conference the organization hosted.
“As an African-American in the hotel industry, a conference in 1991 was an exciting thing to hear,” he said. “I felt I needed to be there and, I remember when I got there, to see such a diverse group of people talking about careers and the market segment and what diversity can do for this industry was extremely refreshing.”
That energy led him to become a board member and, now, to take the reins.
“When you become a board member of an organization, you should have passion for that organization and believe in the cause,” he said. “I knew I believed in this. I am passionate about what work they can do.”
DeShields said he’s eager to attract multicultural visitors to Philadelphia.
“I want a wide range of perspectives to see Philadelphia as attractive and a welcoming community to host their meetings,” he said. “It is a diverse destination.”
Having a welcoming destination is a particular concern for LGBT tourists, who may fear discrimination, he added.
DeShields, who married his partner of 20 years in 2013, said the pair felt that fear when picking a spot to marry.
“It underscores how important inclusion is when it comes to the LGBT community as travelers — what we experience and where we go is very important,” he said.