In Memory of a Visionary
Robert B. Shetterly
In 1978 the East Oakland Youth Development Center opened its doors. Its mission was to help disenfranchised young people receive the same training and opportunities as students with wealthier backgrounds. This commitment that the EOYDC made to the residents of East Oakland was a commitment that was first made by its founding father Robert B. Shetterly.
After graduating from University of Rochester he started working for the Procter & Gamble Co. He served as chief executive officer during Clorox’s transition in 1969 from a subsidiary of the Procter & Gamble Co. to an independent company. Shetterly set the stage for Clorox to become one of America’s leading manufacturers and marketers of consumer household products.
Although Robert was a prominent businessman and a long time resident of Orinda he had a great vision and passion for Oakland. He was aware of, and strongly opposed to, the current the plight and social inequalities of ethnic minorities in this city and believed that access to education and opportunity should not be based on skin color.
Oakland was the place where Robert would share his economic vision and his legacy of equal opportunity. He convinced many businesses to settle in downtown Oakland as opposed to other local cities. He knew that without the investment of businesses there would be a future of instability and poverty in Oakland, the city that he believed is the heart of the East Bay.
Like many common people Shetterly had a vision. Shetterly believed “To do well, you must first do good,” and unlike most, he made a personal commitment to changing the conditions of injustice for under privileged youth. He was willing to make the personal sacrifice and financial commitment to make a difference.
Mr. Shetterly went on to become more than a visionary; he became an activist, putting in the time and effort to live his dream. He became involved with various organizations with significant causes including the Black Panthers, providing financial support to help run their Free Breakfast Program. He did what most people gave lip service to; he used his influence and wealth to give back to the community.
During the early 70’s he began to promote his vision of a community-based program that helps under privileged youth; this vision became the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC). He convinced the Clorox Company to become a partner in developing the EOYDC; “All it takes is hard work, time and some money” said Shetterly. It was a motto that he lived by in his life concerning the Center. The vision was becoming a reality, the EOYDC would be a place that gave minorities the opportunity to learn and thrive.
Mr. Shetterly provided more than a building on the corner of 82nd and International Blvd., he left his legacy, the legacy of the EOYDC. It has provided the staff with the tools for being a part of the solution by helping our youth achieve success.
Robert Shetterly was an activist until his death on August 23, 1997 in Cambridge Massachusetts. While he may have received many awards for his involvement in his adopted community, for him it was always about making a difference and redefining the status quo. Even though Robert has passed on, he can rest assured that his spirit and vision will live on at the East Oakland Youth Development Center.