Read Schuchardt: Communication professor at Wheaton College, father to nine children and decidedly technology-free at home. Surviving without what the majority of Americans consider to be essential entertainment, Schuchardt does not have a cell phone or a TV, using only a laptop for work at the college where he teaches. None of his children living at home have any technology of their own, except for his upper-level children who use laptops for their schoolwork. His wife traded organic tomatoes for the neighbor’s wi-fi password, a network the family uses sparingly.
Welcoming me into his second floor office, Schuchardt invites me to sit on a ripped chair positioned in front of his cluttered desk. Sitting beneath shelves crammed with books and stacks of paper rising off the floor, Schuchardt openly admits that his greatest weakness is organization.
Technology in Family Life
Born in 1968, Schuchardt will be celebrating his birthday in November. Growing up in St. Martin in the Caribbean holds memories of wealth and a divorce between his parents. His childhood was spent visiting his father in Vermont during the summer and dreaming of becoming a pilot at the airport neighboring his home in St. Martin.
Having taken one of Schuchardt’s classes, I was aware of his openness about his parents’ divorce and the brokenness of his childhood home. I was also aware of the joy he carries with the topic of his current family, married to a woman he describes as “the one who loves [him] best.” By marrying him and bearing his nine children, he says, she could not have done anything more meaningful for him.
When asked what makes him most happy, Schuchardt responds that it is when he is surrounded by family. Elaborating, he explains that he has a handful of nuts in the pocket in his vest. Schuchardt’s daughter Genevieve, his eighth child, is raising a chipmunk named Plumpkin. With Schuchardt’s help, she has been teaching Plumpkin to eat out of her hand. As he speaks about Genevieve’s excitement, Schuchardt chuckles that he “just about cried” watching her shake with joy at this accomplishment.
When asked what she thought of his relationship with his family, a multiple-semester student of Schuchardt’s confirms: “I’d say he’s very close with them. Whenever he’d tell stories about them he would light up. He has a few nontraditional rules for his kids but you can tell he wants the best for them.”
Schuchardt admits that he expects a few of his children to rebel against the decision he’s made for a technology-free home. He counters this by also saying that his graduated children get “dumb phones” once they leave the house, wanting to join in the fun of technology and then realize its shallowness.
Schuchardt’s choice to be media-free stems from being “in but not of the world”, choosing to instead spend his time in person with family and friends. He describes this separation from mass media as a “badge of honor,” since he was raised without a television or phone. Raising his children in this way is natural for him, applying the lessons he has learned from his childhood to his own parenting decisions.
Schuchardt is motivated to be a “father to the fatherless.” He is aware of what it means to be fatherless, he acts as a father figure to his students, the demographic he has chosen to invest himself in. Rather than lying helpless in the pain of his past, Schuchardt acknowledges the brokenness of his own experience and searches to apply the lessons learned to his life today.
I ask how he would describe his current 2016 life in just one word. “That’s a hard one,” he says, following this statement up just seconds later with, “Endurance. Hopeful endurance.”
He elaborates: life is hard, yes, but it is not discouraging or overwhelming. “Sorrow and joy always mingle,” he says firmly.
This can be said for the timeline of Schuchardt’s life: a childhood emphasizing earthly treasures contrasts his family life now, vibrant with time spent wisely and acts of service. Sorrow and joy derive from moments of pain and realizations of God’s goodness; situations are redeemed and produce hopeful realism. Schuchardt mentions 2 Corinthians 4:8– “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair”. The unique decisions that this professor has consciously made shape who he is today: someone who recognizes brokenness but also the redemption that stems from that brokenness.
Are his character and convictions apparent to his students? When asked to compare their original impressions of Schuchardt to the person they now know him to be, they provide extremely positive responses. “Now I think he might be the smartest person I’ve ever met. He’s original. He doesn’t go with the flow. And he knows what he’s talking about.” Schuchardt’s unconventional choices and authentic commitment to his students and family form a lifetime of gathered wisdom. It is a privilege to see Schuchardt live out the redeeming love of Christ in every season of life, recognizing the beauty both in difficulty and in joy.