Strengthening his faith
For junior Blake Shuler, time management has been the key to college success as
he balances academics with being on the swim team. And running cross-country. And
working on- and off-stage in the theatre program. And serving as a local Methodist
“It’s been a big help that my coaches make sure our studies come first,” says
the religion major and theatre minor.
“They remind us to keep sports second, but when we’re there practicing and at
meets, we know that at that moment, that must be our sole focus.”
Blake began swimming his sophomore year of high school and came to LaGrange in
part because of the sport, but also for the small, intimate environment he found
when he visited the first time.
“Once I got to LaGrange, I met Coach Susie (Brown), and my love of the sport just
came to life,” he says. “Every year I’ve dropped my time by working with her and
Dr. (William) Yin because they truly believe in the student-athlete.” Dr. Yin is
a math professor who is the swim team’s assistant coach.
Some practices begin as early as 5:30 a.m., and Blake says he enjoys the discipline
and rigor that swimming brings to his life.
“I love the sport,” he says. “It’s one of the most demanding sports, but I love
the challenge that it brings—the thrill and achievement you get with a tenth of
a second finish. The thrill of the race keeps me coming back every year.”
Blake began cross-country running at LaGrange College to complement his swimming
and also has been inspired by Head Coach Matt Donnett.
“Coach Donnett not only has helped me improve my running but also has helped me
grow in my faith,” Blake says. “He’s very inspiring because he has a structure
that keeps us together and really believes in comraderie on the team. We get to
share with each other what we believe and grow in our faith; he’s even introduced
me to a worship night at his church, which I’ve been going to ever since.”
Blake also has strengthened his faith, he says, through Wesley Fellowship, a Methodist-affiliated
campus ministry open to all denominations. This year the group began discussions
with a no-holds-barred approach to grow deeper in their Christian faith.
“We decided to engage in conversation on touchy, controversial subjects, with
pretty much nothing off limits,” he says. “First we laid down some ground rules.
We wanted it to challenge our faith, and we wanted to be sure everyone could be
certain that it was a safe place where no one would be judged by what they say.”
Topics included abortion, gay marriage, the death penalty and family matters such
“We have really learned from each other and grown from the experience,” he says.
“It has taken us out of our comfort zone and challenged what we believe, and we
have grown stronger from it.”
Blake is a youth minister at nearby Greenville United Methodist Church, a ministry
he truly enjoys.
“We have a small group, but we have loads of fun,” he says. “That’s definitely
where you’ll find me on Sundays and Wednesdays.”
Blake says he was inspired by his own youth minister, Dusty Dorin.
“He made me who I am today,” he says. “I learned so much from him, and I keep
applying it when I’m working with these kids. Learning about faith never stops
with one person; you take something, you learn from it, and pass it on to the next
Blake has worked with the Methodist-affiliated Camp Glisson in the North Georgia
mountains, where he has served for three years, first at spiritual life retreats
to help middle- and high-school students grow in their Christian faith. This past
summer he served as a camp counselor.
“When I first got to LaGrange College I knew I wanted to be in the ministry full
time, but it wasn’t until this past summer I had a calling to camp ministry. Serving
at Camp Glisson opened my eyes to a whole new world I’d never seen before.”
Others at LaGrange College have made an impact on Blake during his three years
here, including Nate Tomsheck, technical director for the theatre program. Tomsheck
has guided Blake as he helped build sets for productions of “Sweeney Todd,” “The
Philadelphia Story” and “Metamorphoses.” Blake also appeared in the “Sweeney Todd”
“A lot of teachers will tell you how to do things, while Nate will say, ‘Here’s
what you need to do. Now do it.’ That’s a little scary when you’re working on a
set for a production, but the opportunity to grow and learn from my mistakes has
been invaluable. Not only have I learned new skills, but he has trusted me to do
it on my own.
“I’ve really grown from that,” he says. “I have even applied that to my youth,