MORGANTOWN -- Here's a success story from West Virginia University that's a little bit about fathers and sons.
A little bit about family and tradition. And maturity and discipline.
And a lot about names.
It starts with WVU law student Alvin Hathaway Jr., a high-achiever who was so-named because his mother, Kathleen, decided her first-born was going to carry the family name to the letter, and that was all there was to it.
"All there was to it," indeed, dad Al Hathaway chuckled good-naturedly.
"It wasn't really open to discussion," the elder Hathaway said of his wife's maternal mandate. "She said it was about tradition and family."
But note that he is "Al," these days. Because the Rev. Alvin Hathaway Sr., a respected clergyman and community leader in Baltimore, the city of his birth, did a deft abbreviation of his name –- so his son, in turn, could grow into his own person.
"We didn't want the 'junior' living in the shadow of the 'senior'," he said, "and that's usually what happens, even with the best of intentions."
It's definitely what could have happened in this family. Al Sr. is assistant pastor of Union Baptist Church, Baltimore's renowned "servant church" known for its vibrant ministry of the Harbor City's downtrodden.
Al serves on numerous local and national boards. He's known in his community as a person who simply gets the job done.
And Alvin is crafting his own way. In fact, he's become a shining star at WVU. By the time he's done, Alvin will have earned four degrees from WVU. And that's on top of being an athlete and active participant in the community life of his new home.
In 2005, he earned dual bachelor's degrees in computer engineering and electrical engineering.
While hitting the books, he also reached out to humanity when he helped found the Institute for Human Dignity, a student-led outreach group designed to build awareness and ease the plight of people in poverty and the throes of HIV and AIDS.
Today, at 22, he's completing his first year of law school and has also entered the MBA program in the College of Business and Economics.
What others might call "drive" -– he simply knows as "direction."
"Adaria (his sister) and I are blessed with two loving parents who have given us such positive direction," Alvin said recently while entrenched into his law studies.
"My mother is the hardest-working, most intelligent person I know. She sacrificed it all to make a good life for her family. And my father always told us growing up, 'Dream big. Dream big and do your best.'"
Alvin is used to dreaming big. One boyhood dream he carried with him to WVU got sidetracked. But the way he handled it, he father said, is telling to his son's maturity and mission to craft his own way as a person.
"From the time Alvin was 7 years old," Al Sr. recalled, "he wanted to run in the Olympics. He had this all mapped out. By 2008, he was going to run the 800 meters in the Summer Games, and he was going win the Gold. Nothing less. Two athletes from our neighborhood ran in the Games in 2000, so he was confident he could compete."
WVU didn't offer an athletic scholarship, but he did make the track team as a walk-on. He was turning in respectable race times, but in 2003, circumstances silenced the starter's pistol for good. Budget constraints and other particulars forced WVU to drop the sport for men –- leaving Alvin's Olympic dream aground.
It also left him with a decision of whether or not to transfer to another school.
Al Sr. was hoping he'd stay at WVU, but he didn't tell his son.
"I told him I'd support him if he wanted to transfer," he said. "We raised him to make his own decisions. I've always respected his ability to do that, but at the same time, I also challenge him to consider the variables. I never want him to feel like I've imposed on him."
Alvin opted out of running and chose to dig in his heels academically at WVU, giving an answer that echoed his mother's resolve when it came time to name her son 22 years ago.
"He said he was staying, and that was it," his father said. "He decided to forgo his running career, because he knew the long-term benefits of a quality education. That was such a mature decision to make. That's when you know who you really are. And I was so impressed."
If the father was impressed, however, the son was simply being matter-of-fact.
"I was getting my classes and my majors," he said. "I liked the academics and the environment. I liked it here. I still do."
After all, he said, gold and blue beats just plain gold … any day.
"Because of WVU, I've learned there are opportunities everywhere you go," he said. "You just have to be open to them. The faculty involvement here is incredible. The best day of my life as a Mountaineer was last December, when I walked across that stage at Convocation to receive two diplomas."