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Ken Shackman: Creating a gift from a gift

Ken ShackmanCoup de foudre is a French expression for "love at first sight." It literally means "a bolt of lightning." This is exactly what Ken Shackman says he felt the first time he saw Lin, the woman who became the love of his life, his wife and his inspiration for creating a scholarship.

Shackman (MSCE’72) began his educational career at Bronx Community College (BCC) in New York. “My parents instilled the importance of education in me and my brother,” he says. “We were encouraged to continue our education after high school. College was the ticket to a better life than that of my parents.”

Although far from wealthy, Shackman’s parents had saved money for him and his brother, Larry, to attend college. “At that time, residents of New York were able to attend any city college for free, but I didn’t have the grades to get into the City College of New York (CCNY) so enrolled at BCC, where the cost varied between $13 and $29 per semester for fees,” he says. “I brought my grades up and went on to CCNY, where my brother and I both graduated with degrees in civil engineering.”

Shackman wanted to go into transportation engineering but realized he’d need to go to graduate school to do so. “When I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I was much better trained for designing structures than highways,” he says. “I chose Purdue for graduate school because of its reputation and the facilities.”

After arriving at Purdue in January 1970, Shackman and a friend moved into an off-campus apartment the following summer. “Lin and three of her friends had just moved into the same complex,” he says. “I still remember the day I met her in the parking lot and thinking how beautiful she was. We met at the end of August, I proposed in November and we were married the following August.” Lin, a future French teacher, used the expression coup de foudre to describe Shackman’s first reaction to her in that parking lot.

Linda (Lin) Muncie Shackman (LA’72), was smart, funny, organized and focused, and she always wanted to be a teacher. “She used to conduct classes with her dolls at home: Posie, Raggedy Ann and Andy, and of course, Dumbo,” her husband says, chuckling. “But her family didn’t have much money for her to go to college.”

The only way for Lin to attend college was with the aid provided by Purdue for financially challenged students and through other outside awards. Lin graduated in the spring of 1972 and began her career as a high school French teacher. By that time, Shackman had already begun his career as a traffic engineer with the Indianapolis Department of Transportation. With his career progressing and Lin having completed her master’s studies, they began their family in 1975.

“Lin was an excellent classroom teacher but wanted to have a bigger impact on the students,” says Shackman. In the early 90s, Lin obtained her certification to be a principal and soon after, began her position as assistant principal in the newly opened high school in the district where she was employed as a teacher.

“As assistant principal at Catalina Foothills High School, she initiated an effort to have one of her Spanish teachers, Sheryl Castro, nationally recognized,” Shackman says. Lin conducted research and prepared an application for Castro to be given the Milken Educator Award for the State of Arizona in 2003. Called the “Oscars of Teaching” by Teacher magazine, the Milken rewards selected early-mid career teachers who have impressive achievements, inspire excellence and hold the promise of what they will accomplish in the future, by recognizing them nationally and awarding a $25,000 unrestricted monetary prize. “Lin consistently encouraged excellence and growth in education,” says Castro. “She maximized student performance by regularly visiting classrooms and skillfully coaching teachers to improve their practice. Her laser-like feedback and consistent modeling of best practices benefited countless students and their teachers.”

Lin continued as assistant principal until she retired in June 2008. Sadly, in April 2010, she passed away unexpectedly. In 2011, Shackman created an endowment honoring her memory and dedication to education. “With the cost of tuition on the rise, I wanted to provide an opportunity for a college education like the opportunities that had been given to me and to Lin,” he explains. “It’s only because of the efforts and generosity of other people that both Lin and I were able to attend college, and have successful careers and lives. We both lived much better lives than we would have otherwise.”

Thanks to a life of love and learning that began at Purdue, Shackman's good fortune and generosity make it more than likely a lucky kind of lightning will strike again.