Eugene Shang, associate director of housing at the University of La Verne, is Michael Jordan’s biggest fan. Some would even say his daughter Jordan is named after the basketball star.
The Definition of a Man
With a little help from his friends, colleagues and students, Eugene Shang has turned his life around.
Picture yourself being married to the love of your life, a woman who is also the mother of the daughter that you always dreamed of having. You come home one night after a hard day at work to find out that the woman you gave your heart and devotion to
wasn’t giving you hers in return. What would you do?
Eugene Shang, who was faced with this predicament, acted rationally and calmly, with the understanding that whatever actions he took would alter his life forever.
“I didn’t want the divorce to dictate my actions,” says Shang. “It’s not about seeking blame; that wouldn’t be fair.”
As Americans, we are accustomed to hearing horror stories of spouses killing one another over affairs or watching them bickering at one another on “Divorce Court,” but we rarely hear the stories of the ones who make the divorce work in their favor.
Shang made a conscious effort not to allow the issues he was facing change him as a man.
Eugene Shang was born July 21, 1961, in East Chicago, Ill. He is the second oldest of five siblings and has one daughter named Jordan. Shang has been the associate director of housing and residential life at the University of La Verne for four years. He graduated from Cal State Northridge with a degree in English, and, soon after, went into the field of student affairs.
Growing up, he and his father would listen to classical music. Listening soon turned into playing. Over time, Shang mastered his piano skills and became a trained pianist.
Even though he doesn’t play as often as he did growing up, he has continued the tradition that his father started by listening to classical music with Jordan.
“She calls it ‘playing violins,’” says Shang.
Looking back, Shang explained how learning how to play the piano and listening to the symphonies of Mozart and Beethoven with his father contributed to his development as an adult.
“Growing up, I didn’t appreciate it, but looking back, I’m glad my father made me do it,” says Shang.
“If Eugene could do anything, he would play a classical concert,” said Byron Howlett, director of housing and residential life, and a friend of 13 years.
Sitting in a local Starbucks, Shang begins to talk about basketball. He tells how he and other faculty members at La Verne get together to play basketball in the old gym against their students. He says they constantly beat the students, even though they are at a disadvantage with their ages and athleticism.
“We just beat them with fundamentals,” he says, adding that team concepts on the court apply to life and work.
“You can’t get by without other people,” Shang says.
The same students and friends who Shang helped over the years were there for him when he was going through his divorce.
“People I work with carried me,” Shang says.
One of Shang’s vital support systems came from his parents, Dr. Jen and Shuwan Shang, who helped him see the whole picture.
“I find myself telling students things that my father told me when I was their age,” Shang says. “I told my father this, and he was surprised, because as parents, they can always tell us things, but sometimes they wonder how much is being heard.”
When divorce occurs, it is common to see a person’s work habits and attitude change, but Shang refused to allow the divorce to break him down.
“I had to be OK,” Shang says. “All Jordan knows is that her daddy is always OK. On top of that, the professional staff and students still need me.”
Shang never once gives himself any credit for remaining mentality strong.
Anyone who has experienced a divorce understands that this situation can be devastating.
A strong foundation and support system is needed to make it through the divorce.
“Eugene is humble,” says Howlett.
Despite his internal battles, Shang was still able to be an influence and caretaker to his peers and students.
“Eugene is a name you will hear time and time again when students reflect on staff members who have made a difference in their lives as a mentor and confidant,” says Lauren Moon, housing and residential life area coordinator.
Shang doesn’t blame his ex-wife for what happened to their marriage, but insists that he was also to blame for some things that occurred.
“I looked at myself,” Shang says. “I asked myself: How do I heal? What steps do I need to take to make myself a better man?”
The one thing that stands out about the divorce is how Shang has continued to be a remarkable father.
Even though he and his ex-wife don’t see eye to eye when it comes to Jordan, Shang does everything possible to make it work.
“He is an excellent example of being a father, especially after going through a divorce,” Howlett says.
Normally, after a divorce takes place, it isn’t rare to see the father figure exit the child or children’s life.
“This man is tenacious. He is always looking for new ways and angles,” says Ali Rahmani, Shang’s former boss at Cal Poly Pomona.
Despite the failure of his marriage, Shang isn’t giving up on love.
“If it happens, it happens,” Shang says. “I’m just focusing on raising Jordan.”