Continuing an occasional series celebrating the lives of long-time friends, today I lift up Tony Shipley, my seminary classmate. Tomorrow I’ll tell of how we got back in touch with each other after many years. The following is an “official” biography and its formatting doesn’t mesh entirely with my program, so please forgive any short lines and such:
When Tony Shipley graduated from Garrett Theological
Seminary on June 5, 1964, he had no idea of the role that
President Dewight Loder would play in his life.
Tony returned to his birthplace New York where he was appointed to serve the Metropolitan DWayne (UMC) located in Greenwich Village. He was the first African American to be assigned to a predominantly Caucasian congregation in the New York Annual Conference.
Tony soon became a member of a group of pastors in
Greenwich Village who were advocating for the rights of
women. They discovered that there were many women in
New York who needed to terminate their pregnancies
for a variety of psychological, emotional and physical reasons.
After serving in Greenwich Village Bishop Wicke invited Tony to become the pastor of the Union United Methodist church in Bedford Stuyvesant. Tony became the first African American pastor of this predominantly Caucasian congregation which had been brilliantly led by Dr. Arthur Calliandro. After two years of service to the Bedford Stuyvesant community Bishop Wicke invited Tony to become the first African American to serve on the Conference Staff in the New York Conference.
Tony became responsible for the Conference Camping, Scholarship, and Urban Ministry Programs. After two years of service the Conference Camping Program under Tony’s leadership was expanded from New York city to Albany, NY and included youngsters from almost every social/ethnic group. The Camping Program became a haven for young people who wanted to expand their horizons beyond the limitations of their ethnic community.
Then Dwight Loder the former president of Garrett Theological Seminary who had now become the Bishop of the Michigan Area flew to New York to convince Tony to become the first African American Conference Council Director in the country (a position he held for 11 years).
After his first year in Michigan, John Dawson, President of
Adrian College invited Tony to accept an Honorary Doctor’s
degree from Adrian. After receiving the degree John Dawson
then invited Shipley to become a member of the Board of
Trustees at Adrian. To this day Shipley is the longest serving
Trustees with the exception of one other trustee who is over 90
When Edsel Ammons became Bishop of the Detroit Annual
Conference, he invited Tony to become Superintendent of the
Detroit West District. After his term ended as Superintendent
Tony was appointed to the largest African American Methodist
church in the Conference at that time, the Scott Memorial
church. Where he created the ASPIRES Program.
The Adrian College, Scott Church Program, to inspire readiness
for educational success.
This program was related to McKenzie High School, a
predominantly African American school where the quality
of education provided to the students did not qualify any of
them to go on to get a degree in higher education.
The ASPIRES program changed all of that when Adrian College
agreed to dispatch three of its professors to re-train teachers in
English, Math and Science at McKenzie. The following year 35
students from McKenzie High School enrolled in Adrian College;
four years later 29 of them graduated from Adrian College.
Dr. Shipley served Scott Memorial church for five years until he
was invited to become the Deputy General Secretary of the
National Division of the Board of Global Ministries.
At the Board he was responsible for church development in
Alaska, the Caribbean and the United States.
Being back in New York reminded Tony of his early beginnings and the enormous impact the United Methodist Church had had on him as a
youngster growing up in East Harlem. Tony decided that he wanted to spend his final days of ministry in a community that was like the one he had grown up in and so he asked Bishop Donald Ott to appoint him to the eastside of Detroit.
The Bishop pleaded with Tony and tried to discourage him from reducing his salary and limiting his future career. Finally,
the Bishop decided to appoint Tony to the east side of Detroit
for one year and then they could re-consider. So in 1960 Tony
became the pastor of the Christ United Methodist Church
located in a community where more than 50% of the
inhabitants were unable to read.
Given Tony’s strong belief, that a pastor is appointed to a
community and not just to a church, and the lack of an access
to a college preparatory education for the children of this
community, Tony established the first Charter School sponsored
by a United Methodist church in America. Chandler Park
Academy was created in the Christ church with 100 sixth graders.
The next year Chandler Park Academy opened another building
on Jefferson Avenue with sixth graders and now the school
consists of 100 6th graders and 100 7th graders. The next year
Chandler Park opened a third school but this time on the
Westside of Detroit at Peoples UMC increasing enrollment to 300 students. The next year a church building became available in Oak Park for first graders. The next year Chandler Park Academy was able to purchase land from a Lutheran church that was located on the Campus of the Roman Catholic Men’s High School and the Roman Catholic Women’s High School.The following year Chandler Park purchased those properties. Today Chandler Park Academy has consolidated all of its students on one campus on Kelly Road in Harper Woods, Michigan 90% of its students are in the lunch program, which is only available to students who live in poverty.
Chandler Park Academy has an enrollment of 2,475 students and a Pre-School with 45 students. Chandler Park has an enrollment contract with Wayne County Community College so that when a student from high school at Chandler Park they also have the opportunity to receive a two year degree from Community College giving them a head start as they move into a four year university. Chandler Park now has an enrollment of 697 at the High School and 598 graduates who are attending
colleges all over the United States.
Now the entire Chandler Park Academy student body is located at the sight on 8 Mile and Kelly Road in Harper Woods, Michigan all previous locations have been closed.
CHANDLER PARK ACADEMY
First Location: Christ Church – Havenhill
Second Location: Jefferson Avenue UMC
Third Location: Peoples UMC
Fourth Location: Oak Park Catholic Church
Combined campus on 8 Mile and Kelly Road in Harper Woods, Michigan. All other campuses closed.
1964 New York: Metropolitan –Duane
1966 New York: Brooklyn-Union
1968 New York: Conference Staff,
Associate Program Director
1971 Detroit: Conference Staff, Program Director
1982 Detroit: Detroit West District Superintendent
1987 Detroit: Scott Memorial
1992 New York: Deputy General Secretary, National Division, Gen. Bd. Of Global Ministries
1994 Detroit: Christ UMC