Professor who helped make face shields for front line tragically dies of COVID-19

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Charles “Chip” Shearrow jumped into action early on in the pandemic. A professor of advanced manufacturing at Harrisburg University, he wanted to help front-line workers in long-term care facilities protect themselves from COVID-19.

Using 3-D printing technology at Harrisburg, Shearrow helped produce nearly 2,400 face shields — free of charge — for front-line workers. He passed away due to complications with COVID-19 on Jan. 12.

“I’ve been there every day of the week including weekends and including holidays,” Shearrow told Fox43 in April. He was helped in the lab by his wife and his son. Together, printing, cutting and hole punching, they could produce about 12 medical-grade shields per day. “We’re just trying to take care of everybody.”

Charles Shearrow II, his son, said his father’s compromised immune system also drove the family to help out. 

“My experience for working with Dad on the face shields was a great learning experience for working with 3-D printing technology as well as a great honor to work with my father on his final major project,” he said via email. “Dad was a very humble and down to earth person that cared about helping people more than having time himself to relax. He was always working on projects around the house or spending time developing courses for Harrisburg University.”

Geoffrey Roche, executive director of strategic health-care initiatives and partnerships at Harrisburg, worked with Shearrow to secure the partnership with the Pennsylvania Health Care Association. He said Shearrow has left a lasting legacy, not only on his students, but on the region and the health-care workers he assisted.

“This was truly an individual that was so committed to his students, to the cause of advanced manufacturing, and felt so strongly about giving back,” said Roche. “He would just say, ‘This is what I’m called to do.’”

Shearrow’s son said the family has seen an outpouring of support from Harrisburg University, as well as Ohio Northern University and Ohio State University, where Shearrow worked and received his three degrees, respectively. 

“He left the private industry to go back into teaching because he loved educating others and working with college students,” he said. 

Eric Darr, president of Harrisburg University, said Shearrow approached life with optimism, wit and a can-do spirit.

“He was a hero and a role model for all of us about the way to behave and the way to help one another and to be human,” Darr said.

The university is working on an award and scholarship fund to honor Shearrow’s contributions to the institution.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a significant toll on higher education and its workforce, as now many public intellectuals, beloved mentors and reliable colleagues have been taken by the disease. While the financial costs of the virus on higher ed have been calculated, the true human toll may never be tallied.

“On the commentary about higher education [and the pandemic], I think some of the human element has been lost,” Darr said.

“Important faculty members, staff members, unfortunately pass away, and that ripples through a university community,” he added. “That part of the impact on higher education I don’t think has received its focus.”



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