In the wake of Michael Maxey’s retirement this summer, Roanoke College welcomed a new face to the campus community: Frank Shushok Jr., who will serve as the college’s 12th president.
Roanoke College took the selection of the new president extremely seriously. For five months, a search committee scouted across the nation, gathering a pool of over 100 candidates. At the end of the search, Shushok emerged as the college’s unanimous choice. And for Shushok, the feeling was mutual.
“At every step, I learned more and more about Roanoke College, and I was blown away by the kind of education it delivers and the people it launches out into the world,” Shushok said. “Roanoke College is a gem. It has a soul. No college or university is perfect, but Roanoke College cares deeply about students and their dreams. That’s the kind of community I want to call home.”
In August, Shushok began his first year at Roanoke College alongside the incoming freshman class. A playful video published on the college’s social media showed the president succumbing to all the typical first-year pitfalls: getting locked out and having to call Campus Security, stepping on the seal and forgetting to kick the post for luck. In these opening days of the semester, Shushok has quickly established himself as a vibrant and invested presence on campus.
“One of the beautiful things about being new is that people want to tell you their stories, especially stories about what Roanoke College means to them,” Shushok said. “It is such an honor to be connected with a place that has been so transformational for so many people, for so many years. To a one, the theme is that they’ve been changed for good — forever changed — because of this college. This is something to behold.”
The prospect of replacing Maxey – who was universally beloved and respected by the college community – would be daunting to whoever next assumed the position. But Shushok has taken on the challenge with care, understanding both the college’s love for the Maxeys and the impossibility of truly replacing him.
“I’m a huge fan of President Maxey,” he said. “I’ll never be able to step into his shoes—and I won’t even try. My best bet is to find my own shoes—to be myself.”
As Roanoke College’s new president, Shushok is striving for a balance between treasuring the past and continuing to press forward. These times of transition, he explained, are important for all institutions of higher education.
When asked about his future vision for the college, Shushok shared, “My first goal is to invite the entire community, especially students, to celebrate ‘what is’ and also to imagine what ‘can be.’ All of us are the architects of what Roanoke College is becoming. I want to invite us to be bold and audacious about our hopes for what we will create together.”
Shushok arrived at Roanoke College with his wife, Kelly, who is his high school sweetheart and spouse of 30 years. They have three children, Brayden, 22, Christian, 20, and Ivy Anne, 17. In addition, the Shushoks bring with them their dog, Maple. The young pup received an official letter of acceptance from the college, and she is already making herself at home.
“Maple absolutely adores Roanoke College,” Shushok said. “It’s pretty clear she’s the most popular of the family by a long shot. She’s been a bit hesitant about sharing the college with Salem (the campus cat), but I’m pleased to share she’s concluding that the Roanoke College way is to love and embrace everyone, including cats.”