Ways To Give: What Other Alums Are Saying


David Shumate ’64

David Shumate ’64 (far right) with wife of 50 years, Lyla (far left), son, Brandon, and his 96 year old mother-in-law, Jeannie Nixon.

David Shumate ’64 (far right) with wife of 50 years, Lyla (far left), son, Brandon, and his 96 year old mother-in-law, Jeannie Nixon.

I grew up in St. Johnsbury in the 50’s and 60’s. Some of my fondest recollections are walking to and from kindergarten with my best friend, Bill Hanson ’64. It was during school that I met my lifelong friends: Bill, Martha (Marte) Robinson Rhodes ’64, Deb Hull Thornton ’64, and Anne Swainbank Brooks ’64. We have remained friends for 70 years and still try to get together each summer to renew our friendships. 


The Academy was a special place where we continued to grow and thrive in our relationships. Growing up, we understood the benevolence that was shared by the Fairbanks family for St. Johnsbury, but I did not appreciate their vision for the Academy at the time. As I reflect on the impact they had on my education at the Academy, it is clear they had one mission in mind – providing the young adults in St. Johnsbury with the best education possible. 


Our teachers were special with the likes of Miss Clark in English, Mrs. Byrnes in Math, and Mr. Stowe in science and chemistry. I was well prepared for college and beyond because of the education I received at St. Johnsbury Academy.


Athletics played a large part in my growth and development during high school. Back in the early 60’s we did not have a gym as you see today. We had “The Barn” which was the basement of the old carriage house and is now a boys’ dorm. Our facilities were limited, but it never held us back from learning the importance of teamwork, trust in your teammates, and good sportsmanship. The qualities which I hold on to today were taught to us by caring faculty and staff: Jim Burlingame, Scotty Ingram, Len Drew, Ray Frey, and Ernie Racenet. They were great role models, and more importantly, great teachers.


One aspect of the traditions and culture at St. Johnsbury Academy that stands out to me is our reunion program. Most high schools do not compare to what we have in the way of reunions and how they keep us connected to each other and the Academy. At our 50th, one of my classmates, Gerard Pelletier ’64, was so tired of trying to explain to his best friend what was so special about the Academy, that he paid for his trip to join us at our reunion. It was the only way to explain it — you have to experience it — words cannot describe it. 


While I love the Academy, I have struggled with my giving over the years. It has only been recently that I found a cause that I felt deeply about. I began giving to the Hilltopper Prize, which was initiated by my friend and teammate, Paul Simpson ’65. This prize gives a helping hand to a deserving local graduate in their pursuit of learning, which was something I could relate to personally after putting myself through college. Finding that connection has only brought me closer to ways in which I can help students and the Academy. Going forward, I will continue to support the needs of the school that I’m passionate about. My goals and plans are to help with future enhancements of athletic and wellness facilities that give future generations an opportunity to learn outside of the classroom to complement the outstanding education received in the classroom.


I am making a difference for students who were like me. I encourage you to support the Academy in a way that is meaningful to you, too.