Robert Shoaf: a professor, a pastor, and a leader at Drew

by Henry Ferchau, Contributing Writer

Drew University is one of the country’s most unique colleges, partially because it is home to many inspiring people. Robb W. Shoaf, a professor and pastor at Drew has proven to be one of these inspiring people. Shoaf is exemplary at his job working with the youth of the Madison community, and he aspires to get more involved at Drew and encourage students to explore a life of faith.

Shoaf grew up in Indiana and was raised in New Jersey throughout his childhood in the 1960’s. He never knew what occupation he wanted to pursue when he was growing up. In fact, Pastor Robb wasn’t even interested in going away to college: “I was never very interested in school but went to college anyway.” After receiving good grades he started thinking about going to medical school. However, something changed when he received what he called “a call from God.” Pastor Robb said, “[It was] such mystical experience [it] is hard to explain.” After receiving this call, Shoaf knew what he wanted to do, but his family continued to encourage him to engage in his other classes outside of theology. “All I can say is the best advice I received came from my father (a professor) and my grandfather (a clergyman himself).  They said, “If you plan on going into ministry and going to [the] seminary don’t take religion courses in college, rather get a broad liberal arts education. That is exactly what Shoaf did during his time at Juniata College. After Shoaf proved himself by getting good grades in college, he received a full scholarship to Drew University’s Seminary School. During his time at Drew in the early 1980’s, he married his girlfriend from Juniata, Kathy, and later on they had four kids together. However, after getting his degree at Drew’s Seminary, finding a job as a full-time pastor was not easy. It took him nine years to finally find himself a home in Madison. Shoaf bounced around as a part-time pastor at different churches as he pursued a full-time job. However, in 1992, Shoaf finally found himself right back next to Drew University.

Pastor Robb, as referred to by the members of his church congregation, is a Pastor at The United Methodist Church in Madison, where he has spent the last twenty-four years. Shoaf’s responsibilities at the church include: advertising, distribution of funds money, leading youth group meetings and, of course, preaching on Sundays. According to the members of his congregation, his work is important to the church and the broader community. Shoaf does not only teach about the Methodist faith, but also encourage others to get involved helping those less fortunate than themselves. Scott Ostlund, a graduate student at Drew, as well as a member of the Methodist Church says, “He kind of brings us [the church congregation] all together.”

Professor Shoaf, as referred to by his students, teaches a class in business at Drew. “I teach a class in Business Studies. It is called Professional Responsibility and Leadership,” said Shoaf. The class is about preparing for real-life situations in the workplace. While this past semester had been Shoaf’s first time teaching the class at Drew, he has taught the same class at NYU Stern School of Business for several years. One of Shoaf’s students at Drew, T.J. Chiang (’17), said, “I think that this class is important for those who aspire to go into the business field and the way that Professor Shoaf presents the course is interesting and engaging.”

Shoaf’s message to students who are interested in the Methodist religion, or any faith for that matter, is to “rediscover their spirituality as it takes form. Many people say they are spiritual but not religious. Yet, I believe when your own ‘spirituality’ takes any form (e.g. prayer, working with others, sharing faith) it becomes ‘religious.’ If spirituality is a natural human quest then anything that develops that in a positive way would be beneficial,” said Shoaf. For Shoaf, the church, in general, is a good resource for those who want to help “rediscover” their spirituality. “Religious institutions like the Church are charged and challenged to help with that. We are always looking for better ways to do it.”

Whether you refer to him as a professor or as a pastor, Shoaf is someone who dedicates himself to his work and to his studies. Not only does he motivate himself, but he motivates those in his community and church to get active and help others to find their spirituality regardless of their faith. As Shoaf puts it, “Drew is a creative place where there are many opportunities to help others around you.”

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