June 9, 2023—Dr. Ann Converse Shelly died this morning. She was the mother of the Rev. Marshall Shelly, rector of St. Peter’s Spotswood. She was a collaborator and author of the diocese’s Refugee/Resettlement Task Force curriculum “Displaced.”
Dr. Ann Converse Shelly was born on July 5, 1943, and never did quite get over learning that the fireworks were not for her on her birthday. She passed away after a battle with esophageal cancer in the company of her beloved husband, Robert. She is survived by her husband, sibling and children, Elizabeth (Sven) DeJong and the Rev. Marshall (Laura) Shelly. She is also survived by her sister Lynn (William) and her sisters in law, Linda VanDenBerg and Lucretia Shelly, as well as her extended network of nieces, nephews, friends, and colleagues. Raised by the first woman to become a principal in the Lansing, Michigan school system and a jazz musician turned church organist, she lived a life devoted to faith, formation, education, and social advocacy. Her passion for education led her into battles for equal, civil, and human rights.
Her moral compass was flawless, and yet she had a terrible sense of direction. She was never truly lost, though, because when confused about her location she would announce, “We aren’t lost. We are right here.” Her children learned early on how to collaborate with her in these moments, learning how to navigate by the sun, moon, and stars to get the family to its destination.
Ann accomplished much in her career, rising through the ranks of academia to become a Professor of Education, department chair at Bethany College (WV) and ultimately Dean of the College of Education at both Georgia Southern University and Ashland University. She labored for years in teacher education as a national and international coordinator for teacher associations, co-founding WorldFATE (Federation of Associations of Teachers in Education), creating global networks of teachers. She fought tirelessly for everyone to have access to education, and believed passionately that every moment in life was a blessed gift, a teaching moment.
Every day meant new opportunities to learn, to teach and to advocate for change. She was never far from a desk or computer, working to organize a teacher’s conference, create curriculum, research a paper, or collaborate with a colleague. Even in retirement, she continued to labor for her community, her church, and her profession. She taught Bible studies, served on Vestries, as parish warden and on diocesan councils and committees. She traveled around the world, gathering up networks of relationships in education that eventually led to an invitation to keynote an education conference for the United Nations.
She was a passionate advocate for change in our political systems. She and her husband coordinated voter registration drives, supported people enrolling in health insurance, and fought for statehouse and local political reforms. She was of the generation of women who changed the world, and the world is a better place for their witness and sacrifices.
As accomplished as she was, her greatest love was for her husband, her family, and her kids (the vast network of people who by both blood and adoption were hers to love). She embraced a call to lead a life that bucked the system, fighting for the freedom of the disenfranchised to forge lives that were self-determined and unlimited in potential. She fought for the underdog, loved the struggle, and never gave up teaching, learning and leading others to deeper knowledge, wisdom, and faith.
Ann leaves this life better than she found it, having given her all in order that all have enough to live a good life.
The date and time of her celebration of life service will be announced shortly.
If you wish to honor Ann’s memory, say a prayer today, learn something, teach someone, and then find a way to advocate for positive change in the systems you navigate. In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution to The Dr. Ann C. & Dr. Robert K. Shelly Endowed Lectureship Series in Education at Ashland University. Checks should be made out to Ashland University, noting the scholarship name on the memo line, and mailed to this address: Ashland University 401 College Ave Office of Advancement; Ashland, Ohio 44805. Give of yourself so that others may learn and grow. Treasure and share every teaching moment.