A legacy of making CMU "home" for students

After more than three decades of service, Stan Shingles is retiring

| Author: Ari Harris | Media Contact: Aaron Mills

Stan Shingles has an ‘ancient’ washing machine. It’s been in his home for more than three decades, so long that the store it came from has since closed. Over the years, it’s broken more than a few times, requiring part replacements and repairs. And while Shingles could have replaced it with a newer, fancier model, he won’t.

“All of my appliances are Kenmore. All my parents’ and in-laws’ appliances are Kenmore. We’re loyal to the brand,” Shingles said. “So, when things get old or they get broken, we fix them and stick with them. That’s what loyalty is.”

That “if you love it, you stick with it” mentality is what kept Stan Shingles at Central Michigan University for more than three decades — loyalty to the university, to the university recreation program he helped to build, to his students and to his colleagues. Loyalty and a deep, abiding love for creating community through recreation.

A passion for building community

A man in a blue shirt, Stan Shingles, sits in a chair in his office.Shingles joined the CMU community in August of 1989, when he was hired to serve as the assistant director of intramural sports. And, though his titles and responsibilities changed several times over the subsequent thirty years, engaging students in recreational activities remained close to his heart.

Shingles grew up in one of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods but said he had very rich childhood experiences in his neighborhood’s community centers.

“My two brothers and I played every sport. There were three recreation centers within just a few blocks of my house,” he said, “so every day it was like, ‘ok, what do we want to do today?’ and we could.”

The afterschool programming in those neighborhood centers gave him a safe place to spend time and, more importantly, provided a sense of belonging. It was a feeling he spent his professional career trying to replicate at CMU.

“The Student Activity Center is just a community center on a college campus,” he said. “Our residence halls are neighborhoods, and we are their community center. We are where students come to find a sense of belonging and connection.”

“This is why we do it”

On Tuesday, February 6, Shingles was awarded emeritus status by the CMU Board of Trustees. It was the first day that many current and former students and mentees learned of his retirement.

In the hours that followed the meeting, his cell phone buzzed constantly with expressions of disbelief and messages of gratitude and love. Many of those messages came from students who considered Stan something like a “campus dad” while they were a long way from home.

Those messages of gratitude – and the stories behind them – are why Stan Shingles loves his job. 

“This,” he said, “this is why we do it.”

Every year, Stan and Rene Shingles host a very special meal at their home on Labor Day – a backyard barbeque to help Chicago-based students find community at Central Michigan University. And, in his early years at CMU, several times a week, students would find Shingles on the basketball court, engaging them as a teammate instead of as an administrator. 

While these experiences may be some students’ first time having a “Stan-versation” with a longtime CMU leader, it’s certainly never their last. 

Known for his open door for students looking for support, Stan Shingles has been a lifelong mentor to hundreds of students. Students meet him out on the court, drop into his office and grab him in hallways to talk…and they come back year after year seeking his guidance.

“Stan was always the captain of an unofficial 'student support network' behind the scenes, focused on making sure students had an increased sense of belonging in Mount Pleasant,” said CMU Trustee Isaiah Oliver, who has known Shingles for nearly 25 years. “With Stan’s support during my time on campus I not only learned how to be a better student and growing professional, I left campus a better man.”

A man in a maroon shirt and hat cooks hot dogs on a barbeque grill.
Stan Shingles grills up Chicago-style hot dogs and other snacks at the Shingles' annual picnic for CMU students far from home.

Shingles has also been a role model and friend to dozens of developing professionals throughout his career.

“Over the past 29 years, Stan has been a role model of how life should be lived, consistently leading through the values you hold,” said Jennifer Nottingham, executive director of recreation programs and student activities. “His actions have strengthened my confidence and abilities so that I, too, can pay it forward and inspire others. A simple ‘thank you’ isn’t going to be enough to express my gratitude for the ways he impacted my personal and professional life.”

All the accolades...

His commitment to the profession of collegiate recreation is well documented. Shingles has held multiple leadership roles — and won several awards — from NIRSA, formerly the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association. He served as president at the national level, and also as state director for the Michigan Intramural Recreational Sports Association and president of the Mid-American Conference Recreation Directors Association. In 2019, Shingles received NIRSA’s highest honor, the NIRSA Honor Award, adding to a long list of prior accolades including a regional Award of Merit, the NIRSA Herman Williams Founders Outstanding Service Award, the NIRSA Annual Service Award, and several others.

At CMU, Shingles was honored several times for his service and engagement with students. He received a distinguished service award from the Department of Recreation, Parks and Leisure Services; the CMU Service Excellence Award; and others. Both Stan and Rene Shingles were recognized as Honorary CMU alumni.

A man wearing a graduation cap and gown smiles at the camera and gives a thumbs up.
Shingles walks from the stage after a 2014 commencement ceremony. Shingles often reads out the names of graduates as they cross the stage.

“Stan Shingles was a walking, talking embodiment of CMU’s Leadership Standards long before they were written. Throughout his career, he has been laser-focused on students, passionate about Central Michigan University, and determined to provide the best possible environment for students and young professionals to thrive,” Davies said. “His dedication to this university community and to the success of our graduates has been an inspiration to me and to many other leaders, and he has touched countless lives with his compassion and support. He will be truly missed at CMU.”

…but it’s the impact that matters

Shingles is proud of the awards he has received, but he’s prouder still of the impact he’s had on the university and greater Mount Pleasant community.

“It hasn’t always been easy – there have been periods of time when it was hard to be a person of color on this campus and in this community,” he said. “But you don’t give up on things you’re loyal to.”

During his tenure, Shingles has been deeply involved with advancing diversity, equity and inclusion across the institution. He served twice in interim leadership roles in institutional diversity, once in 1997 and again in 2020, and participated in many committees and task forces dedicated to making the university a more welcoming and inclusive place for all students, faculty and staff.

He and his wife have been active in community efforts to increase inclusion as well and he is particularly passionate about making recreation more inclusive. Shingles has served in multiple volunteer leadership roles with the Special Olympics Michigan Summer Games for more than 30 years. In addition, Shingles played a key role in bringing Unified Sports to the CMU campus, bringing together CMU students and individuals with disabilities to engage in intramural sports. In 2015, he helped CMU and Special Olympics Michigan host the nation’s first Unified Intramural League.

A Black man poses in front of a Special Olympics backdrop holding an award.
In 2023, Special Olympics Michigan welcomed Stan Shingles into the Hall of Fame in honor of his significant contributions to the organization and the athletes it serves.

“Stan Shingles’ commitment to inclusion extends to both his personal and professional life. His love for creating opportunities for students to exceed through campus recreation and for serving individuals with intellectual disabilities intersect through his work,” said Dan Ekonen, St. Director of Program Leadership at Special Olympics Michigan. “Stan has led the charge at Central Michigan University and on campuses across the country to provide space for students and Special Olympics athletes to come together through sport, creating meaningful inclusion and friendships.”

Shingles also served as a committee member for CMU’s annual United Way campaign and served on numerous committees and boards serving the local community.

Moving on, but not too far

All these efforts have been in service of engaging others and building community, Shingles said. Whether it was providing a comfortable space for new CMU students, supporting young people in the first stages of their careers, or making the Mount Pleasant community more inclusive, Shingles’ tireless work has had a tremendous impact on the lives of hundreds – if not thousands – of others.

As he enters his retirement, Shingles is looking forward to spending more time with his family – especially his grandchildren – and friends. But he still plans to be very engaged with his friends, mentees and colleagues from CMU.

Like his ancient washing machine, Stan’s not going anywhere. “It feels strange to know I won’t have the keys anymore,” he said, “but I’ll still be around when people need me.”

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