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Our True Calling is A Gift

Tuesday, June 25, 2019 1:16 PM | Anna Matheson (Administrator)

Written by: Delia Perez, Director of Planned Giving, Fairleigh Dickinson University

Rev. Thomas L. Shanklin fondly reminisces about his FDU education at Wroxton College during the spring of 1967 in Oxfordshire, England. “Wroxton was my most significant life-changing experience. It challenged me and sparked my curiosity to find my true calling in life,” says Tom.

He is a first generation American, born to Harold and Anna Shanklin. Harold, born in 1896, was descended from Loyalists to the Crown of England, who immigrated to Canada in 1783. Anna, born in Germany in 1907, was sent at age 15 to Hoboken, N.J., to send money home after World War I. Harold and Anna met in Hoboken, and married in March 1928 in Detroit. They relocated to Basking Ridge, N.J., where on November 11, 1944, they welcomed their third child, Tom.

Although his parents had only an eighth-grade education, they were avid readers and lifelong learners. They encouraged Tom to read everything and strive to use his abilities to be his best. Tom graduated from Ridge High School in Basking Ridge, N.J., in 1962. His IQ test results scored him in the top 5% of the country, but he was told his overall grades didn’t qualify him to pursue a college education. 

However, in the summer of 1963, Tom decided to enroll in evening classes at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He worked days in a family-owned industrial hardware business in Hanover, N.J. He studied business but was bored with the material. His grades reflected his lack of interest. He decided he did not want to work for big companies like IBM or Exxon.

Instead, Tom became more involved in his church and studied pipe-organ under the guidance of an insightful teacher who mentored and affirmed his value within the community. The experience created a strong church affinity for him and further increased his interest in church history and theology.

Tom’s 1967 Wroxton experience greatly contributed to his pursuit of education and challenged him to look at the world differently. Under the tutelage of FDU Professor Walter Savage, and his wife, Patty, and his Wroxton classmates, Tom says, “It awakened me to a world of possibilities.” The Savages not only taught the students, but also mentored and encouraged them to learn and have fun. Wroxton piqued his interest in history, fostered enduring friendships, and changed his life forever.

In retrospect, Tom refers to Wroxton as his “capstone experience” that was both life affirming and confidence building as he successfully managed his first time away from home traveling alone to England. After finishing his Wroxton semester, Tom opted to explore Europe alone on just $5 a day throughout the summer of 1967. He returned home to finish his studies at FDU.  

Tom graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1968 with a B.S. in Business Management and Marketing. He changed his academic focus to theology and graduated from Drew University’s Theological School with a Master of Divinity in 1972 and a Master of Sacred Theology in 1974. He continued his studies, pursuing a Ph.D. in Theology and History. His specialized field of study is Theology and Methodist History.

During the summers of 1968 to 1970, he worked with the Boy Scouts of America as the Protestant Chaplain at Horseshoe Scout Reservation in Rising Sun, MD. From 1970 to 1971, he served as Chaplain Intern with the Wesley Foundation at the University of Houston in Texas. In the summer of 1971, he served as the Coordinating Protestant Chaplain at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, N.M., the largest scout facility in the world comprising 210 square miles and hosting up to 20,000 Boy Scouts each summer.

Tom is an ordained minister of the United Methodist Church. He has served as pastor of churches in Kansas, New Jersey, Vermont and New Hampshire. He was ordained Deacon in the New York Conference of the United Methodist Church, having been recommended for ministry by the congregation of John Street United Methodist Church, New York City, the oldest Methodist Congregation in America founded in 1766. He was ordained Elder at First United Methodist Church in Wichita, Kansas in 1975.

Tom lives his true calling and pastors a value-driven life within his church family. He taught at Nathaniel Hawthorne College in Antrim, N.H.; has been a member of the American Guild of Organists; and served as founder and president of the Brattleboro Area Drop-In Center, Inc. in Vermont.

He credits his FDU business marketing studies to help promote his creative work. He has written extensively on Biblical themes and Methodist History publishing books of devotionals and stories. His articles have appeared in a variety of periodicals and he also published two books about Wroxton. His new joy is writing murder mysteries about “characters” he has known. Tom makes his home in New Hampshire and Florida where he pursues his passion for writing, photography, choral singing, pipe-organ playing, theatre arts, travel, and much more.

Tom believes in the importance of making a difference in the lives of others. He encourages everyone to “stay curious, read a lot, walk, laugh often, and play in the dirt.” Given the current world situation, Tom says, “People are desperate for love and kindness, and want to discuss the Divine and thoughts about life and after life. A legacy of living everyday sharing small acts of kindness helps us to fully connect and converse and come to better understand each other while having the courage to be open minded and willing to share, and not limit life to just staring at a cell phone.”

With deep appreciation for his life-affirming experience at Wroxton, Tom included FDU’s Wroxton College in his estate plan. Tom says, “I am grateful for FDU’s founder and first President, Peter Sammartino, Walter and Patty Savage, my classmates and others who made my Wroxton experience possible. My legacy gift for Wroxton College will help support and enhance this wonderful treasure, and hopefully, also inspire future Wroxton students to discover their own true calling in life.”

Tom Shanklin shown carrying the FDU Wroxton flag for the Shakespeare Birthday Celebration Parade with his Wroxton classmates in the spring of 1967.

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