Taking a somewhat unlikely route to becoming Freed-Hardeman’s 16th president, David Shannon graduated from FHU in 1989 with a major in finance and a minor in Bible. Becoming a university president was not on his list of goals; in fact, he was somewhat hesitant about interviewing when he was approached. Since his graduation, he has worked primarily in ministry, serving as minister of the Mt. Juliet Church of Christ, a Middle Tennessee congregation, where attendance has more than doubled during his 18 years there.
When FHU trustees approached him, Shannon said, “I told them I’d have to think about it. My wife (the former Tracie Barnes) and I prayed over and over about this. Not once did we pray for it.” Eventually, the couple concluded God was leading them to return to Freed-Hardeman.
Shannon believes love for the university is paramount when it comes to requirements for the president of FHU. “I’m telling you, I love Freed-Hardeman University! Freed-Hardeman, from the time I was 18 years of age, has had a major influence on my life in every way. It has impacted my life spiritually; it has impacted my life socially. It has helped to create my family.”
He and Tracie met on campus in the fall of 1986, when he was a sophomore and she was a freshman. “I loved her blue eyes and sweet spirit,” he said. When a friend, Steve Duer, asked him to be in the cast of a one-act play for Phi Kappa Alpha, he explained that he was already in charge of the club’s homecoming float and just didn’t have the time.
He rethought his first answer, however, when he remembered that Tracie’s sister (Tammy Barnes Beck, ’89) had mentioned Tracie’s involvement in theatre.
He immediately turned around and asked his friend, “Who else is in this play, and what’s the storyline?” The play had only three characters: a father, his daughter and a young man. The plot involved the daughter and young man falling in love. Duer was going to play the father, and Tracie was the daughter. He was looking for someone to be the young man, who would kiss the daughter. Shannon immediately said, “Count me in! I’m your guy.” After rehearsals, the couple began to hang around for long conversations that turned into a dating relationship. “A neat side note,” Shannon added, was that the next year we did a two-character play about an engaged couple in a train station, and we were engaged shortly after.”
“Tracie and I are opposites in many ways,” Shannon said, “but this makes our team of two stronger. We really do try to use our strengths to serve each other’s weaknesses.” David describes his wife of 27 years as a nurturer. “She makes our home a loving place to live and to visit,” he said. “She is also deeply spiritual. Her routine during early morning hours includes time on the couch reading the Word of God and praying.” He also praises Tracie’s strength and genuine love for people. “Many times in our marriage, she has brought in someone to live with us who just needed help through a tough time,” he said. “She has the heart and determination it takes to share another’s burdens.”
The Shannon family includes son, Colton Shannon (‘12), daughter-in-law Rachael Weaver Shannon (‘13), and grandchildren, Max and Meryl; daughter, Lacie Shannon Haynes (‘14), and son-in-law, Clint Haynes (‘04) (along with foster children in the Haynes family); daughter, Emilie Shannon; and son, Ron Yang.
Shannon has identical goals for all those in the Freed-Hardeman family, whether they are students, faculty, staff
- Never forget students are the reason we are here.
- In all circumstances, speak the truth in love. This is nonnegotiable.
- While we are at it, let’s have fun. Life is just better this way.
- Work hard and excel. Let’s be the best God has created us to be.
- Do everything to His glory.
FHU Board Chair John Law described Shannon as a motivator and an encourager in his leadership style. Shannon emphasized, “I pray that I always use the abilities God gave me to His glory. I don’t view myself, individuals or FHU in a static state. I always envision what we can become.” He added, “We all ought to be growing. Healthy people and organizations grow. I envision FHU continuing to grow in academic excellence, social health, spiritual life and numbers. The team of leaders on this campus will help us arrive there.”
Shannon discussed the leadership skills he gained while he was a college student. “The academic experience at Freed-Hardeman prepared me well for ministry,” he said, “but my experiences in leading Phi Kappa Alpha, with more than 200 members at the time, were invaluable when I began working in my first full-time ministry position. I was out of college for 10 years before I worked with a church larger than my social club, so when it came to planning a calendar, organizing events or leading people in study or activities, my classes and extracurricular activities had equipped me well.”
Shannon’s first day as president at FHU was a full one. He arrived early, prayed and met with several people, including the three other living Freed-Hardeman presidents. “My goal is to invest in the opportunities God gives us at the time He gives them and use them for His glory,” he said.
Shannon concluded, “God knows how FHU will look in the future; I don’t, but I look forward to seeing where He will lead. God has always used people as instruments in His work and leaders with vision to chart the course that reflects His will. On my last day as president, I pray FHU will have sent thousands more young men and women into careers, congregations and families to excel for His glory.”