By Elizabeth Stinette.
Patrick Henry College
Matt Shives at his graduation from Hood College
Of course Mrs. Shives knew that Matt was precocious. He started reading at age two. At five he amazed family friends by rattling off facts about the Aztec Indians he'd memorized from historical encyclopedias. Instead of reaching for the television remote, each morning Matt would place a new book on the coffee table.
Now, at 18, Matt is racing steadily toward his goal, having joined Patrick Henry College this fall as a freshman despite having graduated last spring with a bachelor’s degree in economics and math from Hood College in Frederick, Md. He also holds an associate degree in physics, chemistry, and math from Hagerstown Community College.
“I always wanted to go to college, for as long as I can remember,” Matt said. He started attending Hagerstown Community College at age 13, even though he was ready for college work when he was 12. At the time, Matt knew many engineers and thought that engineering would fit his rational personality. He lost interest when he discovered that engineering was not as strongly grounded in logical thought.
Matt thought about going to PHC when he graduated simultaneously from high school and earned his associate degree at 16. Yet he also wanted to stay near his family, church, and friends. And given the fact that PHC did not yet offer the math or science degrees he coveted, he finally chose to commute to Hood College, thirty minutes from home. Hood College wasn’t exactly a perfect fit.
“In secular school, they’re training you for a particular career,” recounts Matt, who said he felt he could learn everything he needed just by reading the class textbooks. He wanted more of a classical liberal arts education, one that would continue his homeschool training.
In May 2012, 18-year-old Matt graduated summa cum laude from Hood College, the first in his class of 400 students. By then, he had decided to attend Patrick Henry in the fall. “[Graduation] was rather non-exciting for me because I was looking forward to Patrick Henry College,” he recalled.
Some people close to Matt are surprised that he is going for a second bachelor’s degree. “We have family members saying,…‘Why isn’t he going for his Ph.D.?’ but he really wants to get the broad liberal arts education that he feels will help him anywhere,” Matt’s mother said.
Besides pursuing his education, Matt spent several years competing in the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) Bible Quiz. William Keely, his long-time Bible coach and mentor, accompanied Matt’s five-person team all the way to the final international competition in Minneapolis, Minn. in the summer of 2009.
To prepare for the competition, Matt drilled incessantly, reciting and memorizing verses. Keely, a cyber security official for the Department of Defense, would ask Matt to name the fourth word of the third verse in the second chapter of a book of the Bible. And Matt would answer it correctly.
“He was always more mature for his years,” Keely said. “He has strong moral fiber.” At the C&MA international competition, Keely remembers, Matt intervened when some of his peers started teasing younger competitors.
“He’s got the potential to do extremely well,” Keely said. “He could get a master’s or doctorate right now in any one of a number of college and universities, but he’s choosing to develop himself spiritually at a place like Patrick Henry College.”
After school, Matt hopes to follow a career analyzing information for the government, like his mentor Keely. He has so many interests, however, that he has not yet settled on any one plan.
For now, Shives takes Constitutional Law and other courses as he begins his freshman year. He looks forward learning at PHC, where he believes, he said, there is an “emphasis on creating a whole person that is in tune with God’s will.” And it’s one step closer to getting that Ph.D.