By Academy communications
SEYMOUR — The King’s Academy President and Headmaster Walter Grubb announced Tuesday the largest contribution to date to the academy’s Celebrating Our Past — TOGETHER — Building Our Future capital campaign. Tom Shen, a 1973 academy graduate who resides in California, made the gift of stocks that sold for $251,028.95. The King’s Academy is a part of Harrison-Chilhowee Baptist Academy which is affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
The alumnus requested the funds be used in the construction of new science classrooms and laboratories in memory of his father, Jin-Tai Shen. Grubb said that Jin-Tai Shen’s name will appear in both English and Chinese on the building.
“My father was a man of God and a scientist,” Tom Shen said in comments accompanying his donation. “He loved God and he enjoyed working in laboratories. I want to dedicate this contribution to building a place where young men and women can love God more and thrive in the sciences.”
The Shens’ connection to the academy started with a Southern Baptist missionary serving in Thailand in the 1950s. Benton Williams had graduated from the academy in 1947 before following a call to serve on a foreign mission field.
Jin-Tai Shen sent his son from their home in Taipei, Taiwan, to attend an international school in Bangkok, Thailand, which was supported by Southern Baptists. During a summer camp led by Williams, the boy became a Christian. His mother was influenced by the Christian Inland Chinese Mission and was affiliated with the Methodist church. His father was an atheist at the time, believing service to the emperor took precedent over any religion.
Educated in British schools, Jin-Tai Shen worked as a petrochemical engineer with the United Nations. In the midst of what he perceived to be unethical UN dealings, he resigned to preserve his honor. Wanting an American education for his son, the elder Shen sought Williams’ recommendation. Williams heartedly recommended Harrison-Chilhowee Baptist Academy.
Before heading to Seymour for school, Tom wrote his father a long letter discussing his Christian faith and encouraging his father to consider Christianity.
Tom met the academy requirements in just one year, graduating in 1973. Subsequently, Tom’s parents relocated to California. Following a short enrollment at the University of Tennessee, Tom transferred to the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA) to be close to them.
It was not long before Jin-Tai Shen became a Christian, a decision influenced no doubt by his son’s letter. The father became active in the Chinese Christian community in Southern California, and assisted in establishing San Fernando Chinese Church.
Tom Shen has given to the academy before. In 2006, he endowed a scholarship to honor Mama Willie Cates, a staff member who encouraged him when he was a new international student in the U.S.
According to Grubb, academy enrollment (513, an all-time record) makes classroom space the academy’s most pressing need.
“Tom Shen’s contribution to the campaign is precisely what is needed at this point in time to help us address the need for science labs particularly.”