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Donors inspire a place to belong

Dr. René Shingles, M.S. ’86, and Mr. Stan Shingles ’82, M.S. ’88

Dr. René Shingles, M.S. ’86, and Mr. Stan Shingles ’82, M.S. ’88

An abiding sense of community has sustained and uplifted Stan ’82, M.S. ’88, and Dr. René Revis Shingles, M.S. ’86, throughout their lives. To help create places that inspire belonging, the Shingles have committed a gift to support renovations and upgrades within Illinois State’s Multicultural Center. The Black Student Union Office will be named the Mr. Stan L. and Dr. René R. Shingles Black Student Union Office in recognition of their generosity.

“The first thing you do as a young person coming to Illinois State is try to find your sense of community,” said Stan. He is the interim vice president and chief diversity officer at Central Michigan University, where he has served 31 years.

As an Illinois State freshman from Chicago’s west side in 1977, Stan quickly made inroads with friends of his two older brothers, Darryl ’80 and Jeffrey, who also attended the University. “Illinois State was not very diverse, but I sensed a community among the Black students because that was the minority population at the time,” Stan said.

He found acceptance visiting the Black Student Union and through relationships with members of the Black Action and Awareness Committee, and the Brothers on Campus Inc. These safe spaces counteracted the isolation Stan felt as one of few Black students in his business classes, a feeling that was amplified after racial slurs were scrawled across Stan’s residence hall door.

Just before entering his junior year, Stan discovered the recreation and parks administration (RPA) program. He enrolled in the major after meeting with Dr. Larry Belknap, an RPA professor and a “skinny runner with a southern drawl” who later became Stan’s academic mentor. Stan credits his career success to Belknap’s belief in his ability to succeed.

“I grew up with two parents who had jobs. I didn’t live in poverty but at 19, I had not experienced anyone outside of my parents or coaches who expected more from me,” recounts Stan. “After my first class with Dr. Belknap, he told me to sit at the front of the room, to take my feet off the chair, and to take off my baseball hat. I listened. I count so much of who I am and what I’ve done professionally with the expectations that he had for me, the same ones that he made me have for myself.”

As a graduate student in Illinois State’s RPA program, Stan reconnected with Belknap, who found him work on an accreditation committee. “I didn’t realize what he was preparing me for,” said Stan, who now does professional consulting work evaluating collegiate recreation and student affairs programs.

René also credits her success to guidance received at Illinois State. She is currently a professor, internship coordinator, and previous director in the athletic training program for the School of Rehabilitation and Medical Sciences at Central Michigan University.

Soon after being admitted to Illinois State’s master’s in athletic training program in 1984, René received a call from Robert Koehler. Then director of the health, physical education, recreation, and dance (HPERD) graduate studies program, he asked René why she had not applied for a graduate assistantship.

“I didn’t even know what an assistantship was,” recalled René, who was the only African American student in her program. “Bob took the time to explain that an assistantship would pay for my tuition and provide a stipend, then told me about four different assistantships available.”

René earned an assistantship in the intramural sports program and taught bowling to undergraduate students. “I discovered the age group I really connected with. I found where I wanted to teach and who I wanted to teach,” she said.

Other connections pushed her to succeed, including a chance meeting with Dr. Betty Chapman at an event for graduate assistants of color, and meeting Mary Peterson ’89, M.S. ’94, through Stan. Peterson later led the Multicultural Center, and Chapman was influential in René’s hiring for minority recruitment and retention work within the HPERD department and Redbird Athletics. René also tapped into the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. “My connections through the sorority helped me navigate my story through ISU. Having sorors to guide me was critical,” she said.

Discovering the Multicultural Center was beneficial, as it became a resource for René and her students. She also appreciated mentoring from prominent HPERD figures including Kathy Schniedwind; Robert “Doc” Kief ’70, M.S. ’72; Ruben Arjona, M.S. ’82; and Dr. William Kauth Sr. ’64. “Without their support, I wouldn’t have been successful through that program,” she said.

René is accustomed to leading within predominantly white spaces. She became the 13th Black woman in the United States to become a certified athletic trainer in 1987. In 1996, she was chosen to be an athletic trainer for the Olympic games. In 2018, she was the first African American woman to be inducted into the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Hall of Fame.

Stan and René now work at a university with a faculty and staff whose demographics mirror Illinois State in the late 1970s. Remembering the mentorship received at Illinois State, they provide support for underrepresented students.

“I get to influence young people every day. Students of color are still looking for people they can identify with. We’ve found our space to have these influences,” Stan said, noting the work is long and ongoing. “We know these things take time. Some people want change as fast as it can happen. But processes within culture don’t work like that.”

With an attitude of patience and respect for the journey, the Shingles chose to help create space for the next generation of Black leaders at Illinois State without expecting accolades.

“Having a space named after us wasn’t something we aspired to do,” noted René. “When your alma mater says you represent what they’re trying to espouse as an institution, it’s an honor in a way we never expected to be honored.”

The Shingles know the importance of representation for people of color seeking belonging. Their gift is doing just that—providing for the future while paying tribute to the people and places that influenced their paths.

Renovations are underway at Illinois State University’s Multicultural Center, and additional naming opportunities exist within the space. To discuss naming opportunities, contact Adam Ruble at apruble@ilstu.edu or (309) 438-1271 in the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs.