When Troy Datcher ’90 first visited Gettysburg College as a prospective student, he was offered a challenge: “You can go anywhere else,” he recalls Harry Matthews, former director of the Intercultural Resource Center, telling him, “or you can come here and make a difference.”
The ability to have an impact on campus really spoke to Datcher, who accepted Matthew’s challenge and enrolled in the College.
“There was an opportunity for students from diverse backgrounds to lay the foundation for what Gettysburg College would look and feel like for students of color today,” said Datcher, while also noting that campus today is more diverse than it has ever been. “It really changed my thinking on the old saying, ‘It takes a village.’”
However, coming from a small town in Alabama that was half of the size of Gettysburg and being one of the few African Americans males on campus wasn’t without its hardships.
“I struggled socially my first semester,” political science major and African American studies minor Datcher recalled. “My mom challenged me in a lengthy phone call to get involved. So I signed up to be a D.J. for the campus radio station. I joined the Student Senate as a class representative and joined the Black Student Union.”
“All of those things made a world of difference,” he continued. I met and became friends with students from literally all around the world, with different backgrounds and perspectives. It gave me a better understanding of Gettysburg College culture. It really was a life changing moment for me.
He utilizes many of the leadership lessons that he learned from those roles in his current profession as the Vice President of Sales and Sports Marketing at The Clorox Company, as a leader in Clorox’s ABLE (African-Americans Building Leadership Excellence) employee resource group and as a member of the Executive Leadership Council, an organization made up of the top 500 African American business leaders in North America.
“I lead an organization today that spans across the United States, and I am responsible for people's careers, their livelihood, and all of the other things that come along with being the Vice President of an organization. I have to represent their voices, their opinions, and their needs every day. A lot of the leadership skills that I use everyday I learned right there on campus. Not only was I member of many groups, I also was a leader.”
Another skill that he learned was how to engage difference – whether that was a difference of opinion or background.
“I had some great professors who would really open up a debate in their classes,” Datcher described. “I remember the size of the classes more than anything. I would be sitting in a class with maybe fourteen other people. In a small classroom setting there is no place to hide. You had to be engaged. This forced me to do the work beforehand, to have an opinion and be able to articulate that opinion in class.”
Not only did the small class sizes hold Datcher accountable to course work, but it also provided him with an atmosphere in which to thrive.
Political science professor Don Tannenbaum remembers the three courses Datcher took with him during his four years as a student.
“He’s the sort of person that you remembered back then,” Tannenbaum recalled. “He wasn’t shy. He was very forthcoming in the classroom, very engaged in discussions – quite frankly, he was hungry to learn.”
This hunger to learn and ability to engage in constructive debate is one of the many invaluable skills that he uses in his current job.
“My job every day is to have an informed opinion and influence others,” Datcher said. “I learned both of those lessons as a student on campus.”
After reflecting on all of the ways that his Gettysburg experience has prepared him for his professional life, he said, “I owe Gettysburg quite a bit.”
However, he is looking forward to repaying that debt – this past semester, he became the newest member of the College’s Board of Trustees. Datcher is eager to continue to build upon the diversity engagement efforts that drove him as a student and have been an institutional priority for the past 25 years.
“It’s a huge honor for me, and I’m very proud to have been asked to spend time in this capacity,” Datcher explained. “I want to make sure that we are all leaving the College in a better place tomorrow than we found it. It is really energizing for me to be a member of a group that will help shape the future of this College.”
Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.
Contact: Kasey Varner, assistant director of communications, 717.337.6806
Posted: Tue, 26 May 2015
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