By Hailey Pruitt
Jan. 22, 2022, Eddie Shewmaker (’44) celebrated his 100th birthday, inspiring a walk down memory lane. “I was destined to come to Harding,” he said. His grandparents were farmers in Green County, Arkansas. When his grandmother, Emma Shewmaker, heard about plans to establish a Christian college in Morrilton, Arkansas, she moved there, taking four of her sons to attend a school that became a family tradition.
In 1934, when Harding moved to Searcy, his grandmother did too, so Shewmaker lived with her his first year. He remembers standing in line with Dr. Cliff Ganus Jr. to register for classes. He worked on campus for 20 cents per hour doing odd jobs and later grading Bible exams for Dr. George Benson. He even taught algebra for a year at Harding Academy and managed the on-campus laundry service.
After graduation, Shewmaker planned to propose to his girlfriend, Reba Faye Nadeau (’47), but that summer he was drafted. After training at a general hospital in El Paso, Texas, he was assigned to a lab for blood and urine testing. Later, he was relocated to Neosho, Missouri, where he bought a ring and asked Reba Faye to come for a visit. He was shocked that Mrs. Cathcart, who had a reputation as a strict dorm mom, actually gave her permission. He proposed, and “that was that.” Because he was still in the Army, a wedding would have to wait another year.
They married in 1946, and Shewmaker went on to earn both a master’s and doctorate from the University of Nebraska. Taking an opportunity to continue his career and help the church grow in New Jersey, he helped found Northeastern Christian Junior College in Villanova, Pennsylvania, serving on the board for 35 years. He also helped establish Echo Lake Church of Christ, where he and his wife served for 60 years.
He also had an incredible career with Exxon, developing a safer and more economical process for cleaning tankers that transport crude oil. After years of experimentation and convincing, the process was finally approved by the United Nations in 1978.
In 2010, they retired to his hometown of Paragould, Arkansas. His beloved Reba Faye died in 2019.
When asked if he had any advice to share, Shewmaker said, “At Harding there’s a lot more to learn than just technical subject matter. Both the brain and the spirit, the center of decisions and guidance, are trained and inspired at Harding. I hope students know what a tremendous value they’re getting.”