As Dean Shandley Retires, Community Celebrates Notable Career

Aidan Peterson –  On April 25, Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students Tom Shandley spoke at his last Spring Convocation. He addressed most of the graduating class of 2017, many of whom were not even alive when he came to Davidson twenty-three years ago. Students and faculty grieve the Dean of Students’ departure, but also celebrate the profound success that Shandley has built at Davidson. “I never came to Davidson thinking I would end up staying twenty-three years,” Shandley reflected. When asked what caused him to stay, Shandley kept it short: “the students.” After working at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, Shandley first heard about a possible opportunity at Davidson through a relationship he developed with Davidson’s President Emeritus John Kuykendall, who served in his position from 1984 until 1997. Upon hearing about Davidson’s Love for Learning program, an initiative to allow disadvantaged, low income Charlotte area students to pursue the dream of achieving a college education, Shandley knew Davidson was the “real deal” and wanted to be a part of the institution.

As Dean of Students since 1994, Shandley has collected many treasured memories of his time at Davidson. One of his proudest accomplishments is creating the Honor Code Signing ceremony.

“The signing ceremony was something that was in place at Rhodes, and I thought to bring it here,” said Shandley. The ceremony has become so ingrained in the Davidson experience that it is hard for an entire generation of students to imagine Davidson without it. Shandley appreciates that students have taken their own spin on the event; the administration had never encouraged the student body to dress formally for the signing, but rather, as Shandley explained, this tradition emerged naturally from the students.

While many of his Davidson experiences have been overwhelmingly positive, there are exceptions. When asked about the hardest part of his dedicated career to Davidson, Shandley replied that the death of a student is something impossible to prepare for, regardless of how long one has been at the job. “When a student passes away, it’s not just hard for me, but for everyone,” said Shandley.

Shandley remarked that what makes Davidson unique is that “there’s an amazing team of people here.” He spoke of a culture at Davidson in which “people have each others’ backs.” This community’s solidarity was even more present in cases of tragic deaths, and, in reference to those situations, Shandley spoke of his appreciation for Davidson students’ ability to be there for one another, transcending social divisions.

Shandley has not only had an impact on the students that have come to Davidson, but also on the college’s faculty and staff. According to Davidson Health Advisor Georgia Ringle, “Dean Shandley has done a great job hiring excellent staff in the Student Life Division. Having good, smart and supportive colleagues makes all of the difference in a job that can often be challenging but rewarding nevertheless.”

Shandley’s ability to build rapport with anyone who walks into his office has allowed him to make lasting relationships with not only students, but also the faculty and staff of Davidson College.

Throughout his career, Shandley has had to remain very active. Retirement may seem like an invitation to slow down, yet this is not in Shandley’s plan. Instead, he hopes to remain engaged with education after his retirement from Davidson. He will be teaching a class in Appalachian State University’s College of Education next year. Most notably, Shandley intends to participate in the Registers Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, or the RAGBRAI: a 500-mile bike ride across the midwestern states. The recreational event attracts upwards of 20,000 cyclists from around the world.

Finding a suitable replacement for Shandley proved to be a daunting task. The college assembled a search committee to find an administrator who shares Shandley’s commitment to students. Members of the committee included Nate Casey ‘17, Dara Ferguson ‘17, Professor Mark Barsoum, Professor Shyam Gouri Suresh, Professor Sharon Green, Vice President and General Counsel Sarah Phillips, Trustee Tom Okel ‘84, Associate Director of Residence Life Walter Snipes, and President Carol Quillen.

On May 2, Quillen announced via email that Byron P. McCrae will be replacing Shandley.

Shandley has left a strong legacy at Davidson, and many have been fortunate to share pieces of their college experiences with him. He has defined the Dean of Students’ position for many community members and left an indelible impression on Davidson’s history.