The Auburn University College of Education is pleased to introduce Mr. Duante J. Stanton as its new Director of the Office of Development. He will join longtime Development Coordinators Molly McNulty and Kelly Rogers in the office.
Stanton grew up in Birmingham. During his sophomore year at Ramsay High School, he was accepted at the Alabama School of Mathematics and Science, where he graduated.
“I love math and science, and both come to me naturally,” he said. “But there was also a thriving arts scene at the school so I was able to continue with my music, singing, stage acting, and choreography. In fact, my first-ever trip to New York City was with our vocal ensemble when we performed at Carnegie Hall.”
As the ambitious and multi-talented student turned his sights on college, he felt compelled to compete.
“At the Alabama School of Math and Science I was surrounded by really smart people so I was motivated to get into a good school,” he recalled. “Being a Type A person, I actually applied to 31 colleges and was accepted by 29 of them. As it happens, a recruiter from Bucknell, a private Liberal Arts college in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, was also an Alabama native and invited a few of us from the state to come visit. I really liked it, they gave me a generous scholarship package, and I felt at home there. So that’s where I went.”
With plans for medical school Stanton dove straight back into advanced science classes, but by his Sophomore year he was having second thoughts.
“As I got older I just realized science didn’t give me a sense of fulfillment,” he said. “I switched my major several times, and ended up graduating in Sociology with double minors in creative writing and American Lit. I continued to teach dance and acting classes at Bucknell, and had a five-month independent study abroad in Barbados which opened me up to a whole new set of experiences. But what I really found at Bucknell that stuck with me – besides developing a love of SCUBA diving from my time in the Caribbean — was my experience in the alumni call center. As a new kid in a new place I needed a job and I found employment calling alumni to garner support for the school. To my surprise I had a lot of success calling alums. All those people in Central Pennsylvania seemed to enjoy talking to someone with a thick Alabama accent!”
Stanton was able to draw a direct connection between his work and his good fortune.
“In that job I felt like I was making a difference,” he said. “With all of my scholarships it was nice to say ‘thanks to you I can be here.’ The generosity of our donors was making this all possible for me and many others, so that work turned out to be life changing.”
By the time of his graduation, Stanton was a seasoned manager, hiring and training the call center employees, and realized he wanted to stay in development. His first opportunity came at the University of Scranton, a private Jesuit institution, where he spent the next three years transitioning the previously-outsourced call center into a thriving student development office. The school’s religious emphasis on Cura Personalis, or caring for the whole person, profoundly influenced him.
“I loved my time in Pennsylvania but was missing my family,” Stanton said. “My sister was planning to attend college in Washington, DC, and I thought it would be nice for her to have family there so I made another move. She ended up staying in Alabama, but I got on at the American University Washington College of Law. I was overseeing various aspects of our annual giving efforts, including working with our giving societies and joining the dean on visits to large area law firms where our graduates held leadership positions. This was also my first experience of making personal visits, which I really enjoyed.”
While still in DC, Stanton was recruited by a former Scranton mentor to join his new staff at Stony Brook University on Long Island. He wanted to return to the South, but found the offer tempting.
“At Stony Brook I met with a lot of amazing people and was taken by the history of the university,” he said. “It was young, only founded in 1957, but had rapidly risen up the ranks of top research universities. It was top 100, but they had achieved that without compromising the student base. Most of the students are from the state of New York. One-third of the students are Pell Grant-eligible, the majority of whom have a total family income below $20,000. A full two-thirds of the student body came from families with incomes of less than $75,000. And they were having great academic success. So I went there in 2014 to work with major gifts and had direct contact with donors, which is what I wanted. I had a lot of success there working in the Schools of Medicine, Nursing, Social Welfare, and Health Technology and Management. I had my hands full managing all four, but found the work tremendously fulfilling.”
Still, the call to return to the South was strong.
“My whole life has been a happy accident,” Stanton said. “I wanted to be closer to my family, and our capital campaign at Stony Brook was coming to an end. Although I did not know much about Auburn, I loved the whole idea of the Land Grant commitment to citizens, and of course education is fundamental to all of that. I am a product of that educational opportunity. I love the idea of what we can do here: we educate students who in turn go out and share that with others. I love the idea of it all coming full circle.”
In his first few weeks on the Plains, Stanton has felt at home.
“The Jesuit ideal of Cura Personalis, or caring for the whole person, and the commitment to the whole program here at Auburn, feel so natural. People here really care. They don’t have to remind themselves to ask how you are. People want to meet you where you are. You hear about the Auburn Family but it’s real. There is a built-in level of thoughtfulness and care. I’ve felt very welcome here.”
At Auburn, Stanton seeks to contribute to the campus community in meaningful ways.
“I want to become involved and build a legacy at Auburn that does not promote me, but one that builds on the greatness that has been here for more than 160 years. Of course we will be focusing on our new building but it goes far beyond that. We want our friends and alumni to continue investing in something we all believe in: the transformative power of education.”