Skip to main content

President's Blog: From the Heart

Finding Your Path

By Eric F. Spina

They describe themselves as "a storyteller" and "a coach," but Dr. Westina Matthews Shatteen '70 '74 and Alan Shatteen '69 are trailblazers, too.

On a breathtakingly beautiful autumn day on campus, this dynamic couple returned home to share supper and life lessons with a group of black students eager to discover their own paths.

Westina and Alan entered the University of Dayton as pioneers, two of only 19 black students during the end of the civil rights movement. He studied business, was a star defensive back on the football team, a vice president of the student government association, and a resident assistant in Stuart Hall. She aspired to be an elementary school teacher, was a resident assistant in Marycrest and was elected the first black Homecoming queen.

"You're the only one who can answer the important question in your life," Alan told the students over salad, chili and loaded baked potatoes. "'Why am I here? What’s my purpose?' When you ask the powerful question and receive the quiet answer — and when you know to be patient — really magical things happen."

Alan, an executive coach, knows the value of patience. After losing touch after graduation, he called Westina 25 years later and discovered a soulmate and wife. "She's good for my soul and the soul of others," he said. "If you listen to her carefully, you'll hit it out of the ballpark every time."

The trajectory of Westina's life proves just that. She started her career as an elementary school teacher in Yellow Springs (comedian Dave Chappelle was one of her students!) and continued it on Wall Street as a managing director at Merrill Lynch, where she was the first woman and person of color to be elected a trustee of the foundation. For nine years, she offered wise counsel as a member of the University’s board of trustees. Then she started a new chapter — serving as a fellow at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University, awarding scholarships to minority youth as chief program officer at the Jackie Robinson Foundation, studying to be a contemplative spiritual director and, just this month, publishing a book of heartwarming, thought-provoking essays filled with grace and gratitude.

I'll cherish my copy and so will the student leaders from BATU (Black Action Through Unity), who received an early copy at dinner of Dancing from the Inside Out: Grace-Filled Reflections on Growing Older.

I'll also treasure the advice Alan and Westina shared with this new generation of UD students leveraging every opportunity they can to make a difference in the world and to position themselves for long-term success.

"You climb the ladder one rung at a time. Take your time," Alan told them. "You should expect to be a leader. Learn how to lead. You have to want it (leadership) and spend your time in motion to get it."

Westina urged the students to be true to themselves: "Always take the high road," she said. "My daddy always said, 'You don’t know who’s going to give you your last glass of water.'"

On the road — the high road of life — these two are still blazing a trail, and the University of Dayton is blessed to count them among our caring alumni and friends.

Previous Post

Full Circle

John, Shirley, and Chuck Berry didn’t graduate from the University of Dayton, but sometimes friends become a part of the family. They’ve just committed $5 million to create the new Berry Family Scholarship Program for honors students, the latest in a long line of generous gifts. What inspires them to support our students and programs with such joyous generosity?

Read More
Next Post

Georgia on My Mind

Warner Robins, Georgia, sits 613 miles from Dayton, but after a quick trip there this week, it truly feels like it’s “just around the corner.”

Read More