June 28, 2021 : By Jacob Couch - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
Serving others has never been a chore for Liberty University graduate Tatum Sheppard (’20), the newly crowned Miss Virginia. It’s a passion that she nurtured at LU through various activities on and off campus.
“My time at Liberty shaped me as a person, as a Christian, and as a godly woman,” she said. “It wasn’t just about getting my degree, although the training that I got was great. Getting my education with a biblical worldview was critical in maturing me and teaching me to find my identity in Christ and not in the things that I do.”
As part of the responsibilities of her reign leading up to the Miss America 2022 competition in December, Sheppard will go on an “ABC School Tour,” traveling to 70 different schools in the fall promoting her social impact initiative “Mentoring Matters” through the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. During the tour, she will also talk to students about drug and alcohol abuse prevention.
Sheppard was involved in the organization as a big sister in high school and college; she completed a portion of Liberty’s required Christian Community Service (CSER) hours with the program as well as with Thomas Road Baptist Church. She said she understands the impact a mentor can have and is grateful that she attended a university with a longstanding tradition of service.
“I was so grateful to graduate from a college that taught me not only what I needed to know to succeed in my career but also how I was going to succeed as a person and as a Christian,” she said.
Sheppard earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre from Liberty and also worked as a tour guide at the Hancock Welcome Center — both areas that proved to be training grounds for her success in the Miss Virginia pageant.
“My theatre degree was put to good use this week,” she said, laughing. “We had a talent portion in the competition which is 35 percent of our score. I performed a Broadway vocal so I was able to use all my training (from college).”
Sheppard said that working as a tour guide at the welcome center has helped her to relate to all different ages.
“When you are a tour guide, you get a wide range of people you are talking to,” she said. “It could be anyone from a younger sibling to a grandfather who brought their granddaughter, and those are the types of people you have to be able to talk to as Miss Virginia.”
In addition to her training at Liberty, Sheppard said she was taught by the best mentor she could have: her mother Kellye, who was crowned Miss America in 1987.
“I watched my mom my whole life, and that made an impression on me,” she said. “My mom is the best role model I could ever ask for. She is so godly and she is so servant-hearted. She was also crucial in teaching me where my identity should be.”
Sheppard said through her mother’s professional theater experiences as well as her father’s coaching profession, she was exposed early in life to a variety of different interests that she is still grateful for today.
“I did theatre, played basketball and volleyball. I was doing everything,” she said. “It made my siblings and I very well-rounded, but we always knew not to tie our identity to any of the things we were doing but to who we are in Christ.”
Sheppard said that once her pageant time over, she hopes she is remembered for her character and passion in showing the love of Christ to those she encountered along the way.
“Every person I come in contact with, I want them to be seen and become known,” she said. “I want to see people the way that God sees us and I want to leave that impression on them.”
Sheppard’s heart for serving Christ was seen day in and day out while at Liberty by Linda Cooper, chair of the Theatre Arts Department.
“I am so proud of this accomplishment of Tatum’s, but I am not surprised,” Cooper said. “She is a talented, intelligent, confident young woman who speaks boldly about her faith and runs through every door God has opened for her. We expect a wonderful future for her and are glad we have been a small part of her journey.”