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Chandler’s Globetrotting, Reputation-building Journey at Beacon Comes to Close

By Richard Burnett

Working in the spring harvest of strawberries at her family farm in Michigan, Shelly Chandler dreamed of changing lives. She wanted to be a social worker, teacher, or counselor — someone who would touch hearts.

Some of the first recipients of her kindness were the migrant workers who also labored in the fields. Seeing her befriend the hard-working crew, her father assigned his young daughter to keep them stocked with clean trash bags for their household.

“He said, ‘Here you go, you’re the one who wants to be a social worker, so go deliver those bags’ to them,” Dr. Chandler recalled, smiling at her dad’s limited concept of social work. “But I did get some on-the-job training that way. And I liked it, because I really admired the migrant workers, their hard work, their values, and love of family. I felt like I made a difference.”

Today, the retiring provost of Beacon College has that same sense of accomplishment as she embraces a major life change. After 22 years as an educator and administrator — the last eight years as provost — Chandler is turning the page to her next chapter.

She and her husband — Dr. Kevin Chandler, retiring associate professor of math and Beacon’s math lab coordinator — are returning to their hometown, Alpena, Michigan, on the scenic shores of Lake Huron’s Thunder Bay. They plan to reconnect with a place rich in memories, where they met and fell in love decades ago, though it is a move that has not come easily.

“We became so engaged in the Beacon community,” Chandler said, her voice briefly breaking with emotion. “… Sorry, I’m getting emotional. It’s hard. But now we want to get engaged in our new community, to be actively a part of it, enjoy it, and to find our next act.”

Photo: Dr. Shelly Chandler joins President George Hagerty and Dr. Oksana Hagerty during a Middle Eastern trip.

‘Great deeds and highest honor’

Chandler’s send-off at Beacon was full of accolades — the most prominent being the Beacon Medal, the College’s highest honor and recognition for service to college and community. She is the fourth to receive it since the inception in 2019.

Beacon President Dr. George Hagerty presented it to Chandler at the May 11 commencement for the Class of 2024, extolling her great deeds for the advancement of the college.

“I don’t think some people truly recognize what Shelly has done for this institution for so many years,” he said. “Every time we needed something done, she would get it done, and get it done quickly — not only in academics. She chaired our Covid task force and did a wonderful job.

“In her academic leadership, you only need to reference our bachelor of science program and the many graduates today who received those degrees,” Hagerty added. “That was because of Shelly. She worked tirelessly with our accreditors to make that program possible. For that and all that you have done, I can’t thank you enough, Shelly. I will miss you.”

Journey with many turns

Chandler’s long journey to Beacon had many turns. Married young, she and her husband earned their degrees from Oakland University in the Detroit area. He took a job at General Motors, she worked for an insurance agency, rising to general manager.

Later, they adopted three children rescued from an abusive home, and Chandler became a full-time mother. She counts raising them among her proudest accomplishments. Next, the family moved to upstate Michigan where Kevin worked as a university professor. Two years and 400 inches of snow later, they moved 1,800 miles to Florida when he was hired as the lead quality control engineer for the Leesburg hospital.

After a brief stint with a Florida insurance firm, she went back to school, earning a master’s in counseling and psychology from Troy University and doctorate in counseling from Barry University. She worked as a licensed mental health counselor in Orlando, supervising and training a staff of 40 counselors at a community health agency.


It was there that she fell in love with teaching. Chandler took a job teaching psychology at Lake-Sumter Community College and an adjunct position at Beacon. In 2002, she came to Beacon full-time as head of the psychology department.

In those days, she taught every course in the curriculum, but loved the job, thrived with the students, and helped them navigate their learning differences.

“From the beginning, I just loved the students at Beacon,” she said. “I knew they just wanted to be listened to and heard. And if you had patience to do that, you could see them learning. You could see it happening, from the day they started to when they graduated. And it’s so rewarding to see that.”

Photo: Dr. Shelly Chandler, circa 2005

Compelling teacher and mentor

From all indicators, most Beacon students have loved Chandler through the years. For Christine White, Beacon Class of 2007, her experience at Beacon was memorable because of Chandler, whom she credited with being a compelling professor and “go-to mentor.”

“Outside of class, she felt like a friend, someone I could trust and talk to about anything and not be judged,” said White, who received a bachelor’s in human services and now works in security logistics at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.


Even when she moved into administration, Chandler remained vitally connected to the students, especially through her work leading Beacon’s travel and study abroad trips. Close friend and colleague Dr. Andrea Brode, who coordinated the trips in recent years, recalled Chandler’s role in establishing “the institution and culture of the college we know today.”

“She has just lived Beacon for so many years,” Brode said. “She never wanted the spotlight, but whenever she was called on, she was always there when it counted. Shelly’s a fantastic person, an extraordinary asset to Beacon, a beloved person not only to me but the entire college community. And she leaves a wonderful legacy.”

For Chandler, the best legacy is the message she has repeated often through the years: “To the students, I say believe in yourself and keep believing in yourself. Be persistent and you can do it. I believe in them too. And though I’m leaving now, I still believe in Beacon and my colleagues. Beacon will be just fine, because it has the hardest workers and the best students.”

Beacon's Unique Study Abroad Opportunities

Want to learn more about Beacon’s study abroad options? Dr. Chandler was passionate about developing travel abroad opportunities specifically for students with learning differences. Check out our semester abroad in Italy or Japan, the annual trip, and specific academic travel excursions.

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