Professor bridged gap between church and university

Professor bridged gap between church and university

When considering his achievements, Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Thousands of TCU students over three decades stood on the shoulders of one of these rare and inspiring giants, professor and director of choral activities Ron Shirey.

From his arrival at the university in 1976, the professor, known by students as simply “Shirey,” had a profound impact on colleagues, countless numbers of students and all who heard his choirs sing. Alumni of the TCU Choral Program returned continually to sing under his direction, drawn to his passion, high expectations and boundless support for his singers. Yet Shirey went above and beyond the role of a gifted mentor, friend and role model. He had a personal mission, one that went to the core of the university’s identity.

Shirey held the position of choirmaster at University Christian Church from his very first year with TCU. Since that time, the UCC Chancel Choir and the TCU Music Department have worked together in numerous productions, sharing the gift of music of the highest quality across the country, from Fort Worth to Carnegie Hall. Shirey always emphasized what he saw as a “symbiotic relationship” between TCU and University Christian Church, strengthening the affiliation of the school with the Disciples of Christ denomination.

In the last month of his life, Shirey brought his choirs to Nova Scotia, a profound experience for all who went. However, according to some of his students, Shirey saw a fading relationship between students and church. As a member of the faculty for over three decades, Shirey witnessed remarkable progress and success at TCU. His mission firmly remained the preservation of the heritage of TCU as the university changed and reached new heights.

The Disciples of Christ denomination is integral to the identity and mission of TCU. Addison and Randolph Clark were Disciples of Christ ministers and founded the university and its church both in 1873. Continual learning is a core value of the Disciples denomination, one that encourages intellectual growth without religious pressure. What else should be expected from a denomination that produced three American presidents? At academic orientation this year, freshmen heard about the university’s commitment to encouraging students to develop a lifelong love of learning. The aims of TCU and Disciples of Christ are not divergent.

The professor insisted he would keep striving to maintain the essential connection between the church and TCU. This mission drove him, as he put aside retirement to continue his passion for students, music and the mutual dependence of UCC and TCU. After traveling to Nova Scotia, he expressed a hope for renewal of those common ideals and purpose. As the university grows and pushes forward to maximize its potential in academics, athletics, and sense of community, all of TCU should understand what Professor Shirey strived for in his career and passion.

Shirey passed away before he could fully work to renew and preserve the tradition and identity of TCU. His death, therefore, affects every student and faculty member at the university. TCU must remember its heritage, lest we allow a key part to slip away by forgetting what Shirey stood for. There are shoes of a giant to fill.

Pearce Edwards is a freshman political science major from Albuquerque, N.M. The author gives special thanks to Derrada Rubell-Asbell for contributions to this piece.