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Kenneth Marshall Shumard: Purpose. Vision. Sacrifice. Heart.
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Kenneth Marshall Shumard: Purpose. Vision. Sacrifice. Heart.

by David Fincher, Ed.D. – GAC Chancellor

In our better moments, those are qualities we all want to embrace. Yet living out those qualities consistently? That’s where our human frailties can get in the way. So we thank God for powerful examples who remind and call us up again; People who have helped shape visions, then poured themselves out to make dreams come to life.

That’s been the life of GAC parents/grandparents Ken and Joyce Shumard. They’ve been involved with GAC since the 1980’s when sons Ken ‘85 (wife, Connie) and Bob ‘87 (wife, Carrie) were outstanding students and graduates. Their love for GAC’s mission continued as supporters, advisors, and grandparents of six (Jake ‘14, Drew ‘16, Anna ‘19, Kate ‘22, Tripp ‘21 and Emma ‘23), as well as great aunt and uncle (Curt and Sandy Shumard, Luke ‘10, Travis ‘13, and Jesse). A trained counselor, Joyce served on GAC’s Board of Trustees for 14 years, and chaired the Planned Giving Committee on behalf of the board as well. Ken also was engaged deeply with GAC, and Christian education globally serving on numerous Boards including Lipscomb University. Together, the two of them brought to life many programs and ideas that are part of us today.

Ken went to God on February 14, 2023, leaving behind a grateful family and many good works, GAC being one of those. Joyce’s health no longer allows her to be involved as she once could. Yet their great impact lives on. Ken and Joyce’s influence in my life will always be within me. I’ve known them since they were younger parents decades ago.

Even then, they were so supportive, so caring, and always involved. They wanted their children to have a deep faith education, which Ken and Joyce told me was a large part of why they packed up and moved to Atlanta in 1980, to be near GAC. While back then, the plans for how they’d support themselves and their life’s work were still unclear, they leaped out on faith, knowing it was the right thing to do, and that plans would come together in God’s good time. And, that wasn’t the only leap of faith in their lives. They did it again and again, teaching me and others lessons along the way.

Ken and Joyce loved multiple ways of teaching a new generation about Jesus. Christian education, whether in the local church, or a K12 independent school like GAC, or in higher education were God’s opportunities to grow the kingdom and reach the lives of children, teens, and future men and women. So at GAC, Lipscomb University, or a world away in Rwanda, they were there--ready to go, to dream, to plan, and to support sacrificially.

Notice I said “dreamer”. And that’s on purpose. Yet some dreamers only have lofty visions with no wheels below them to bring them to life. Not Ken and Joyce. With every dream came plans, resources, personal sacrifice, and a constant flow of energy and care. Joyce has a special passion for children with learning differences. Over just a decade she was the motivating force behind the redesign of the Academic Support Center (6-12), along with successful intervention models for our youngest students (K3-5th). Today, the Shumard Learning Center helps hundreds of Lower School students thrive with reading coaches, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and is now home of the GAC Dyslexia program. Because she dreamed.

And Ken especially loved adventure! For several years we were both connected to a Christian International School in Kigali, Rwanda, and explored the potential of building another school there. That meant being there personally. Somehow through Ken’s massive connections, he’d get us in meetings with dignitaries and government leaders—such as Prime Ministers and African nation’s Presidents, as well as U.S. Senators. Ken taught me more than virtually anyone about building relationships, the importance of worthy motives, and how God opens doors for you. Together, they lived a life of sacrifice. They could have lived grandly due to the success of their business. But that never interested them. Their resources were for God’s good work. When I’d travel with Ken around the U.S., Europe, or Africa, we stayed in glorious places like Hampton Inns and youth hostels for $6 a night. Why? So the resources could go to God’s work, not our comfort.

Once, Ken and Joyce told me about how that sacrificial vision of life came to pass within them. They told me that it came because they had watched another couple who had much, but chose to give it away for greater purposes and the way those decisions of sacrifice had blessed so many others.

And so comes the full circle: I have no doubt that others have watched Ken and Joyce Shumard, seeing the example of their lives of purpose, vision, sacrifice and heart for others. We never fully know how our example lives on in the life of others. We are thankful for the wave of change they’ve made in GAC; In hundreds of others who’ve seen them in action; And in tens of thousands who will be blessed for an eternity, because they cared, they acted, and they lived it out.


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