Paul Spradley: Robert Morris University Paul Spradley | Robert Morris University

Changing Lives

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Q: If you had to pick a color to describe Paul Spradley, what would it be and why?
I would pick a warm orange. Like a sunset. I feel like people enjoy sunset’s and I like to think I make people feel good about themselves. I’m comfortable to be around. 

Q: Do you have any nicknames? Any funny /stories behind them?
A: I don’t have any nicknames, but people do call me a variety of things which include: Paul, David, Paul David, P-Diddy, Sprizzle, Sprad, Paulie, and my favorite…Pulse. Pulse is funny because there have been quite a few people that think my name is Pulse Bradley (Paul Spradley). 

Q: Think of the most memorable or important time when another person helped change your life for the better. Tell us that story.
Again, being associated with RMU, there are multiple /stories where my life was changed. I remember when the Dean of Students offered me a position here with the University. It changed my life. When the Provost made a special trip to my church to perform a private graduation for me because I was unable to attend my undergraduate graduation. Changed my life. I would have to say, while at RMU, the person who may have had the greatest /impact on my life was Holly Mcgraw. Holly is graduate of RMU and was an employee through our America’s Promise. After an intense selection process, I was hired as a summer camp counselor for her summer program in the city of Duquesne. 

Working with African American students in a community that was distressed and in poverty…learning how to love a person when they didn’t initially love you in return, was a life changing experience for me. I learned so much from Holly about community, about loving your neighbor, about giving second and third chances, about getting past a rough exterior to truly connect to a person. It’s since changed my direction in life, and I feel that when students at Robert Morris change some one’s life, theirs IS changed forever. 

Q: You mentioned before that your mother changed your life. Tell us about her and why she is so special to you. What values has she instilled in you?
My mom instilled in me so many quality values. I owe my ability to imitate voices to my mom because she was great at it. My mom was an excellent decision maker and always had good solutions to problems. One of the most valuable skills that she instilled in me was to never shoot for mediocrity. It’s so easy to be “average” and she knew that her children were above average, so she didn’t settle for mediocrity. 

I was temporarily suspended from the wrestling team one year because I brought home a “C” in Spanish and she knew I could do better…and I did. But it was that mentality to work hard that still drives me today. In fact, I do a lot of public speaking to high school kids and I almost always find a way to fit that saying into my speech. Never shoot for mediocrity. My mom is also probably one of the most spiritual people I know, and she’s been praying for me since before I was born. Her relationship with God is a model that I try to follow. 

Q: Think of the most memorable or important time when you realized that you might have changed someone else’s life. Tell us that story.
There have been several moments where I’ve left feeling amazing about changing a student’s life, but two come to mind. I like to drop nuggets of knowledge on students all of the time. One time, a student was struggling with what door to go through after graduation. Would he go to grad school, would he work here in the U.S. or would he go back to his home country and try to start his adult life there?

I gave him some advice and forgot about it. 

Shortly after he had graduate, he had come back to tell me that I had helped him with what was the biggest decision of his life! There was a group of us standing there and he began repeating a conversation that he and I had over a year prior, almost verbatim. It was just the power of a listening ear and some positive advice. I had forgotten about it, but he had remembered the entire conversation a year later. 

The second situation that comes to mind was when a student from out of town came into my office and said he had a presentation for class and then an interview right after that. He hadn’t brought any business casual clothes from home, he didn’t have money to go to the store, nor did he have a car. At the time, he was wearing jeans and the best shirt he had. We were about the same size, so I said… “well…We can’t have you going into an interview in jeans. You’ve got one shot to make a great impression. Let’s go switch.” We were about the same size, so I gave him my button up shirt and slacks and he gave me his jeans and t-shirt. 

Q: How did changing someone else’s life change your own life? What lessons did it teach you?
When you change someone’s life, there is a level of humility associated with it, because it’s not like you’re making someone’s day…you’re changing their LIFE! I’m big into paying it forward, and I hope those people whose lives I helped change, will in turn encourage them to change someone else’s life. 

Q: Tell us about your “bucket list.” How do you inspire others with this idea? And what’s on your bucket list?
One of the other things I tell people I develop a relationship with is, you need to have a bucket list. My reason for having one and being such a supporter of having one, goes back to not settling for mediocrity. If you have a bucket list, you’re always aspiring to something, which I feel is healthy. If you’re not moving forward, you’re not going anywhere. Your car is in neutral…and that’s no kind of life. We deserve better than that, and if we don’t try new things, then we’ll never know what we’re capable of. 

So, I’ll always have something on my bucket list. Some of those things are bigger. Some are smaller. Some past items on my bucket list included: competing in a Mixed Martial Arts event, doing stand-up comedy, riding a motorcycle, riding in a helicopter and taking guitar lessons. Some things still on my list include: writing a children’s book, traveling to the west coast, traveling outside of the country and buying a home, now that I'm married. 

Q: When did you discover you had a voice that resonated with people?
Actually, in the fifth grade, we sang a song for graduation and I was one of 5 kids to sing a solo. A kid Tony Tucker said, “Why is your voice so low? That’s funny”. I remembered him saying that, but thought nothing of it. In high school, I started singing bass in the choir and people began to comment on my voice then…but in a positive way. It wasn’t until I came to RMU that I began receiving instruction on how to improve my projection and enunciation. 

Q: What is it you enjoy most about recording?
When you do a VO, you usually don’t get to hear what it sounds like mixed down until after the recording. So, I enjoy positive feedback. I also enjoy the challenge of figuring out what exactly to give the producer and creative team. They give great instruction, but you still have to match what they are hearing in their head. 

Q: How was this experience different from other VO experiences? 

A: The creative team had extremely specific request. So, where before, I may hear, “Paul, try this read a little less energy”, this time I was getting request like, “Ok, I want your inflection to go up on the word “it”, level off and then bring it back to a warm tone”. It was awesome! 

Q: How do you prepare for a stint in the studio, to do your best?
I do a lot of praying. I know my voice is a gift from God, so after every take, I’d say a little prayer of thanks. Prior to the recording, I try to drink a lot of water to keep my mouth hydrated, because the microphone is so sensitive, that if I’m thirsty, you can hear it in the microphone. The more takes I do, my voice gets lower, so to keep it from getting ridiculously low, I’ll yell or sing in a falsetto soprano to keep my vocal cords loose. 

Q: Think of yourself before RMU and compare that to who you are after RMU, such as your attitude, beliefs, personality, values, perspectives, etc.
Before RMU, I thought I wanted to spend my life doing TV News. Although I learned how to be a great reporter here at RMU, I feel like the leadership opportunities, the people that cared for me and the cultural experiences I had a chance to participate in made me who I am today. Because of my RMU experiences, I’m now using my God given ability to make people feel special as part of my job! 

Q: What’s your favorite aspect of RMU?
I would have to say the ability to write your own story. When I was a student, I was able to run for president of any student group I wanted. If I had a good idea, people would listen. Now that I’m an employee, I’m still given the freedom to write my own story, and I can help students write their story. If they want to try something, we try to make it happen.


Today Paul is working as director of Multicultural Student Services at Siena Heights University in Adrian, Michigan, where he's also planning on working towards a doctorate degree.