A day in the life with UD President Eric F. Spina

Durham, left, and Lewis, right, standing with President Eric Spina in the Office of the President, located in St. Mary’s Hall. Photo courtesy of Flyer News.

Lauren Durham | Print Editor-in-Chief and Kaitlin Lewis | Online Editor-in-Chief

Ever wonder what a president of a university is up to on an average day? 

On Sept. 23, Flyer News had the opportunity to shadow University of Dayton President Eric Spina for a full day. Between meetings and meals, Spina’s schedule would probably look intimidating to the average person. His day doesn’t just start when he arrives on campus, either, but before the sun has even risen. 

Early Start

President Spina wakes up at 4:15 a.m. every morning during the work week. He has a routine of working out on the elliptical four days a week, with Wednesdays being his rest day. 

While exercising, he reads the newspaper to help ensure that his talking points for the day are timely and relevant. On the Thursday we spent with him, he commented on a NPR article predicting that the surge in cases of the Delta variant was almost at its peak in most meetings he attended.

On the days he exercises, Spina is in his office at St. Mary’s Hall at 7 a.m. On his rest day, he’s in the office by 6:30 a.m. Since his parking spot was given away for the COVID-19 sweepstakes, Spina is now parking in the B lot. He shared that his new spot might be closer to his office, but he loves passing by his old spot and seeing the winning student’s car in his spot. 

Usually, he’ll stop and chat with the facilities team on the way into his office. It’s just him and a few others for the first hour. Spina prepares for the busy day ahead without a single drop of coffee. In fact, he doesn’t drink any caffeinated beverages. He doesn’t like hot drinks. 

A Full Day

President Spina’s Google calendar is full and colorful, with little-to-no breaks in the day. 

To kick off the day, Spina hosted members of the President’s Emissaries and their guests for a breakfast in the President’s Suite on the third floor of Kennedy Union from 8:30-10 a.m. The breakfasts happen a handful of times each semester. Students asked Spina a variety of questions over scrambled eggs and KU breakfast potatoes.

“Even though I could go in and change your grades, I won’t,” Spina joked with his guests.

No topic or question was off limits, as encouraged by Spina. The conversations touched on a bit of everything: future university expansion projects, mental health services for students and, even, favorite fruits. Spina liked that question a lot. He argued that there’s nothing better than a good peach, but bananas are reliable and convenient. 

After a quick group picture, he returned to his office in St. Mary’s Hall to begin the first of many meetings. 

At 10 a.m., Spina welcomed new and returning Board of Trustees members over a Zoom meeting. Fr. Jim Fitz and Crystal Sullivan joined in the second half of the meeting to discuss the university’s Marinaist identity at great length with the new trustees. Spina eventually had private one-on-one meetings with each trustee.

After a short break and a banana (he wasn’t kidding earlier that morning about the fruit being reliable), he joined the Path Forward Executive Team at 1 p.m. for a weekly meeting. The group discussed a recent uptick in illness on campus, most not related to COVID. They also discussed the PATH teach-in that occurred on Sept. 15. 

At 2:30 p.m., Fr. Jim Fitz, vice president for mission and rector, had a one-on-one meeting to discuss matters related to the university’s Catholic identity. Student Government Association President Drew Moyer and Vice President Hannah Hoby met with Spina at 3:30 p.m. to discuss upcoming goals and plans for the 2021-2022 school year. 

President Spina then left St. Mary’s Hall and arrived at the Chapel at 4:30 p.m for the Marianist Educational Associates’ re-commitment ceremony. The Marianist Educational Associates are made up of faculty, staff and administrators who participate in a year-long formation program focused on the Marianist Charisms. The initiative exists among the three Marianist universities and aims to build strong foundations in and outside of classrooms.

Following the ceremony, the MEA’s joined President Spina and Fr. Jim Fitz in the Kennedy Union Ballroom for a reception dinner at 5:30 p.m. At Spina’s table, the guests joyfully shared their experiences in the program with one another while also discussing the latest episode of one of Spina’s favorite shows, “Ted Lasso.”

Late night

Although the Flyer News team ended the day of shadowing after dinner, Spina still had another event to catch. He walked over to Baujan Field around 7:30 p.m to watch most of the women’s soccer game against La Salle (UD won 3-0)

President Spina shared that most of his individual work gets done late in the evenings, so the end of the soccer game likely was not the end of his day. Besides finishing paperwork and emails, Spina also likes to handwrite a few thank-you notes or thinking-of-you cards to end his day. According to Tom Wessecker, executive director for the office of the president, Spina writes an obscene amount of notes each year. In the 2019 school year, he wrote over 900.

From the early start to the late night’s work, Spina’s office assured Flyer News that Sept. 23 was truly a day in the life of the UD president. Annette Mitchell, assistant to the president, mentioned she “doesn’t know how he does it.”

Honestly, we’re not sure either.

In between meetings, President Spina took time to answer some less serious, but perhaps equally important, questions about himself.
Here’s what he said:

Favorite music: Spina mentioned before showing us his most listened to artists that “My kids say I’m a young woman in terms of my music taste.”

  • Sara Bareilles
  • Mary Chapin Carpenter
  • The Avett Brothers
  • Billy Joel
  • Dave Matthews Band
  • Van Morrison 
  • Bobby Darin
  • Frank Sinatra, 
  • Classical music (He chooses this when traveling and working on the plane.)

Favorite Dayton restaurants:

  • Coco’s Bistro
  • Roost Modern Italian
  • Sueño (He took his wife, Karen, here for her birthday.)

Favorite things to do with family in Dayton:

  • Rip Rap Road bike trail (near the Dayton area)
  • Eating at restaurants
  • Playing a lot of games (He talked about their “legendary” game closet that their children, Kaitlin and Emery, bragged about to friends when they were growing up.)
  • Hiking (the Spinas love to hike.)

Favorite spots on campus:

  • Serenity Pines (He always tries to have meetings here.)
  • Courtyard between St. Mary’s Hall and Chapel
  • UD Arena when it’s full

Favorite TV shows: Spina, unsurprisingly, does not have much time for television. Here’s a list of recent favorites he’s watched when he has the time. 

  • UD sports
  • “The Handmaid’s Tale” (recent binge)
  • “The Great British Baking Show” (This was a pandemic family favorite. The Spina family was looking forward to season nine coming to Netflix this fall.)
  • “Ted Lasso” 
  • “The Morning Show”

Favorite books:

  • Fiction: “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet”
  • Nonfiction: “The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made”

Favorite movie:

  • “Saving Private Ryan”

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