Person of the Week
April Godwin Shuman: Holding History to Heart
Calling April Godwin Shuman a fan of Clinton history is a serious understatement. Now in retirement, she’s working hard to ensure others get a chance to learn the local stories. (Photo courtesy of April Godwin Shuman)
“Clinton history and Morgan history is a passion of mine,” says April Godwin Shuman. “It’s vital to who I am.”
As a member of the Clinton Historical Society (CHS) and the Morgan Alumni Association, preserving Clinton history is something that April thinks about every day.
In 2010, April had just retired and was looking for something new to do. At the same time, her parents, longtime members of the CHS, were phasing out of their involvement with the society.
“My parents were very involved with the historical society and the land trust, but it had become a bit too much for them at that point, which was also when I had retired,” April explains. “So, I decided to step up and take the mantle, so to speak.”
Ever since, April has been a valued member of the CHS.
One of April’s main duties as a member of CHS is to edit the organization’s quarterly newsletter known as “Brick Notes.” April says he newsletter usually contains a rundown of recently held events as well as a list of upcoming events in addition to “little facts of Clinton history.” These tidbits could include things like linking an upcoming event to something that happened in Clinton’s past or sharing a forgotten fact about Clinton.
“It’s something I sort of did in the past for other organizations. It just sort of fit for me,” says April.
Besides the newsletter, April is also in the CHS library weekly where she has undertaken a project that has a special connection to her father. Years ago, April’s father built a model of the original Morgan School that is housed in the CHS library. Now, April is working to add to the same model.
“I’m putting more history into what he created,” April states.
In particular, April is researching and making models of some of the houses that used to stand alongside The Morgan School so that the model is of a more complete main street. April notes that if you start at the Madison and Clinton town line on Main Street and follow the road until about where the Police Department stands, you pass many historic buildings or lots where historic buildings once stood.
“I’m trying to find the history of each lot, and who lived there at the time of the school,” April says.
April says that over the years there have been a lot of new buildings built or old ones destroyed, something that makes researching everything a little difficult. Still, the ability to contribute to a project that her that her once worked on years ago is a special accomplishment for April.
“It was a labor of love for him and it really is an astonishing thing,” April replies when asked what it means to her.
April says her father used to show school kids the model of the school, but now she is also able to tell kids about the surrounding area thanks to her research.
“I wanted to be able to do that part,” says April.
April says that history has long been a fascinating subject for her.
“History has really always been an interest of mine,” she says.
Luckily for her, April gets to scratch that itch not only at CHS but also as the secretary and historian of the Morgan Alumni Association. April says she joined about 12 years ago after a group of former students were urged to restart the association.
“The whole story of The Morgan School is amazing. It’s great to still be associated,” April says.
As part of her work, April is charged with finding out information about all 10,315 people who have graduated from The Morgan School since its doors originally opened. For some alumni, that information might just be their name and year of graduation. For others, there may be information on what they went on to do post Morgan or information about their family.
Another important event that April helps coordinate with the association is the Triennial Reunion, a reunion held every three years that is open to all graduates from any class.
Staying connected to her alma mater is something she holds very dear.
“I grew up in an era where Morgan was really an important part of our DNA in Clinton. We all melded as a group,” says April.
April grew up in Clinton and now calls neighboring Madison home. However, she is quick to point out that “all my volunteering work is in Clinton.” In retirement, April says she likes to visit her children and grandkids when she can. She also likes to go for a run every day, which she says is one more activity she picked up from her parents. “They ran every day, even into their 80s. So, I’ve got a few more years to go!” April says with a laugh.
Though she no longer is technically a resident of Clinton, April still has a love for her hometown.
“It’s just a wonderful place. There’s so much community. I can just see how much everyone is involved with everything that goes on,” says April.