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  • Writer's pictureJamie Burdorf

FAMILY CHALLENGE: The McCalls act on gratitude


When Richard McCall and Kathryn Barker speak of their time in the Shenandoah School District growing up, the brother and sister pair speak with nostalgia and fondness.

“I always appreciated all the teachers did to push us in all areas, not just academics, but also arts and sports,” said Richard. “That really impressed me.”

They had always talked about giving back to a community and school that gave so much to them. So after their dad, Keith McCall, passed away in July, they talked to long-time educator Duane Rexroth, a member of the board of directors of the Shenandoah Iowa Education Foundation, and decided the foundation’s “Family Challenge” was exactly what they were looking for.

Richard McCall and Kathryn (McCall) Barker pictured with their dad, Keith (center)

Richard and Kathryn became the 20th family to join the foundation’s Family Challenge and they did it not just for their dad, but also their mom, Mary Alice, who had passed away a number of years ago.

The total number of families or individuals who have made pledges in the first year of the challenge is currently at 21. It was launched in September, 2019, by the family of Bob and Kathy Sweeney, now of Atlantic, who pledged to donate $10,000 to the education foundation over the next 10years – if their pledge is matched by 24 families in 2020, then 25 additional families in each of the next three years.

If successful, the Family Challenge will generate $1 million which would allow the foundation to establish a solid endowment to help support and enhance the Shenandoah schools.

The McCall family hails from southwest Iowa - Shenandoah, Essex, Farragut and Hamburg. Mary Alice was from Shenandoah and Keith from Essex. After marrying, they lived the rest of their lives in Shenandoah. As Richard and Kathryn grew up, they saw their parents work hard, Keith as a civil engineer technician and Mary Alice for Iowa Power and Light (now known as Mid-American Energy). Both stayed with their employers for 35 years. Keith also farmed between Shenandoah and Clarinda.

When the kids were in school, “our parents pushed us to get involved,” Richard said. “I was in band, tennis (his favorite),choir, musicals (‘South Pacific’ and ‘The Wizard of Oz’) and other sports.”

The late Mary Alice and Keith McCall

Kathryn added that they benefited from having “just great teachers all the way from elementary through high school, and that’s the advantage of living in a small town and a small school. You can get involved in a lot of things.” She was in school about the time girls basketball became an interscholastic sport at SHS and she remembers Cheri Kenyon, another Family Challenge donor, being a couple of years older than her. In addition, she played tennis and softball, and participated in music and band. “Shenandoah was known for its band program,” Kathryn said. “They used to dominate the marching competitions under the direction of Dr. Robert Creighton.”

Graduating from SHS in 1977, Kathryn went on to go to Nebraska Wesleyan University for her undergraduate degree in finance. She has worked in banking and investments with different companies, and currently serves as the senior vice-president with Core Bank in Omaha. Kathryn had been married to Ron Barker for 36 years, and they have two sons that attended Millard Schools and went to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

Richard was just a year behind Kathryn, and he went on to Northwest Missouri State after graduation. From there he had different jobs in the financial industry, but currently is an IT project manager for InComm. He and his wife Pam have been married 23 years and have three adult children, who also attended UNL.

If you’re interested in becoming part of the Family Challenge, you can reach out to the foundation’s President Corby Fichter at 712-621-2386, Treasurer Nick Bosley at or Executive Director Jamie Burdorf at or 515-520-7641.

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Buy SIEF Banquet tickets here!

Our third annual "Excellence in Education" banquet will be held on April 6th, with social hour at 5:00 PM and the meal and program beginning at 6:00 PM. The banquet will be held at the Shenandoah Elk


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