“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” – Jackie Robinson

As NIRSA continues to celebrate the diverse culture of campus recreation professionals (through avenues like caucus discussions), we want to take a moment to explore some seminal figures who have trailblazed the way for Black professionals to make an impact within and beyond NIRSA. I took time recently to speak with six NIRSA pioneers about why and how they have taken steps into leadership with NIRSA.

A common theme among the group was a sense of responsibility to carry forward—with courage and servant hearts—the torch set in motion by the original 20 Black founders of NIA.

See related: NIRSA History

As we enter into Black History Month, I invite you to explore the leadership journey of past, present, and future Black leaders in NIRSA through the lenses of these six pioneers:

  • Jocelyn Hill, Director of Recreational Sports & Fitness at American University
  • Kevin Marbury, Vice President of Student Life at the University of Oregon
  • Jean McClellan Holt, Assistant Director of Recreation & Wellness at Old Dominion University
  • Juliette Moore, Retired Director at the University of West Florida
  • Stan Shingles, Assistant Vice President at Central Michigan University
  • Mirum Washington-White, Director of Athletics, Curriculum Chair for Physical Education, Dept Faculty at St Cyril of Alexandria School (debuts February 8)

About Stan Shingles

Stan is a native of Chicago, IL and is a graduate of Illinois State University (ISU), earning both Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees. With more than 35 years of professional experience in recreation, he has worked in university administration for more than 30 years.

Stan is currently the Interim VP/Chief Diversity Officer at Central Michigan University (CMU). Prior to this position he served as the Assistant Vice President for University Recreation and Student Engagement. While at CMU, he also held positions as Director, Associate Director, and Assistant Director of University Recreation, and also served as the Interim Assistant Vice President for Institutional Diversity. Prior to his tenure CMU, Stan worked in higher education at Northern Illinois University and at Illinois State University.

Stan has been an active and engaged member of the sports and recreation industry for more than three decades. He has held several leadership positions including NIRSA President, NIRSA President Designee, NIRSA President-Elect, NIRSA Region III Vice President, member of the NIRSA Foundation Board of Directors, member of the NIRSA Services Corporation Board of Directors, faculty member of the NIRSA School, State Director for the Michigan Intramural Recreational Sports Association (MIRSA), and President of the Mid-American Conference Recreation Directors Association.

Stan has been the recipient of many professional association, community, and university awards. He is honored in the Illinois State University Student Affairs Hall of Fame and the College of Applied Science and Technology (CAST) Hall of Fame. NIRSA recognized Stan in 2019 with its highest accolade, the NIRSA Honor Award.

Stan has also been the recipient of the NIRSA Region III Award of Merit; the NIRSA Horace J. Moody Student Development Award; the MIRSA Outstanding Member Award; the NIRSA Herman Williams Founders Outstanding Service Award; the NIRSA Juliette Moore Distinguished Service Award, a NIRSA/United States Tennis Association (USTA) Tennis Ace Award, the NIRSA Annual Service Award, the CMU Recreation, Parks and Leisure Services Distinguished Service Award, the CMU Service Excellence Award, the CMU Affirmative Action Leadership Award, and the CMU Honorary Alumni Award.

Stan’s pathway into NIRSA leadership

Stan describes his route into NIRSA involvement as untraditional. Before being introduced to collegiate recreation, Stan worked with disadvantaged kids in community recreation for five years. But he decided to pursue his master’s degree and secured a graduate assistantship at Illinois State University. While attending ISU Stan had the opportunity to help host and attend an Illinois State Conference through the Illinois Intramural Recreational Sports Association (IIRSA). It was his first introduction to the opportunities available through NIRSA. Stan took note at the time that only about five of the attendees were Black. One of them, however, was Jesse A. “Tony” Clements, the NIRSA President at the time.

This was impactful for Stan because in that moment he was able to see himself in Tony and he recalls thinking, “Wow, there is a Black man who is president of this organization.” From that moment on Stan was open to the opportunities that would soon grow his involvement with NIRSA. He attended his first Student Lead On and decided to fast track his graduate studies. Motivated to begin a career in higher education, Stan completed his graduate studies in one year.

Stan’s first NIRSA Annual Conference was in Hollywood, Florida in 1988. At the time, his primary focus was on finding a job and he almost missed the opportunity to be a part of the genesis of the 100 Black men of NIRSA. During the Annual Conference, he crossed paths with Dr. R Kevin Marbury and Leroy Hackley, meetings that solidified his commitment to creating community and kinship. That conference, he officially became a member of NIRSA and took his first steps on a pathway into NIRSA leadership.

While attending the 1989 Annual Conference, Stan had the opportunity to meet and shake hands with NIA founders Dr. William Wasson and Horace Moody, Sr.

It was at this conference that Stan first learned about the history of NIRSA and its founders. He felt a responsibility to continue the work of the original founders and started taking steps into leadership. His networking with Tony Clements; Maureen McGongale, Director of Centers at DePaul University; Sarah Hardin, Associate Director of Centers at DePaul University; Tom Jones, Director Emeritus at Central Michigan University; Dr. Wasson and many more helped Stan along his pathway into NIRSA leadership. Their influence helped guide his efforts to make sure NIRSA was a leader in higher education. Stan’s story is about an ordinary person taking advantage of extraordinary opportunities with the help of divine intervention. “It’s about being able to leverage who I am to help other people,” he says.

Stan’s call to service

Today, our association is working towards equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Stan hopes that successes supported by his network will allow young professionals opportunities to be recognized not just by their network or through their privilege, but by the merit of their work and the impact of their contributions. “Today, young leaders have many more examples to look towards that are representative of them,” he says.

He encourages young leaders to “engage, contribute, and form connections,” because the leaders who precede them are actively advocating on their behalf. He acknowledged that—through avenues like social media platforms and NIRSA Connect—he is more accessible to young professionals now than his mentors may have been to him. Stan shares, “Accessibility has given me a sense of duty to do the best I can while I can. While I have a little fizz in my pop and juice in my orange, I will squeeze it to use my past experiences to inform future outcomes and remain relevant.”

Stan also reminds aspiring leaders that there is a lot of sacrifice that accompanies reaching a high level of influence. And you shouldn’t compare your efforts with those of others because your journey will not be the same as your peers. “Be unapologetic in your steps,” Stan says, “and trust your community. You can take comfort in knowing the move forward is not about ‘me’ but ‘we.’”

See related: “Oh, the places we have gone

Shine a spotlight on your mentor

NIRSA has a great history and the opportunity for a bright future. Our founders and the Black leaders who have come after them have set an example for all of us—they encourage us to actively engage and be the change we want to see on our campuses, in this profession, and within our association.

I’m proof that, as young professionals, we have the opportunity to connect directly with the leaders mentioned in this series.

See related: “Pioneering the way: Spotlights on Jocelyn Hill, R. Kevin Marbury, Jean McClellan Holt, Juliette Moore, and Mirum Washington-White (debuts February 8),”

If you are a leader in collegiate recreation or strive to be, then I invite you to be brave and use your voice. Reach out to me if you’re interested in contributing an article to honor a pioneering Black leader and inspire the next generation of NIRSA leadership.

We will not be an organization that repeats its past or gets stuck in its present. Instead, we will connect with our past and set course for our shared future with a mindset that everyone is welcome on the journey. The future is in you!

  • For more information, contact Katherine Geter, Coordinator of Rec Sports & Family Programs for University of Houston’s Campus Recreation.
  • If you are interested in highlighting your campus or a NIRSA member’s achievements on your campus, pitch us your ideas.

Katherine "Katie" Geter is currently Coordinator of Rec Sports & Family Programs for University of Houston’s Campus Recreation; you can email her at kgeter@central.uh.edu.