Valrico Community Icon Leaves Lasting Legacy

By Andria Barrios

Grace Christian School has been known for the quality private Christian education it offers for many years. The school is also known for its great founder and leader, Dr. Robert Gustafson. Unfortunately, this legend passed away only months ago, but his daughter and son-in-law continue to follow in his footsteps.

“In the 1970’s, prayer and the Bible started being taken out of public schools,” explained Rebecca McKeen, Gustafson’s daughter. “His desire was to provide a quality Christian education where prayer and reading of God’s Word was encouraged.”

He provided just that by founding this Kindergarten to twelfth grade school, where his daughter attended all her school years and now teaches.

“I love the fact that I have the freedom to talk about Jesus every day,” she said.

The memorial service held in his honor took place in January and was attended by over 1,000. “The service had to be held in the gymnasium of the school, as the church could not hold all the people who came to pay their respects to this greatly loved and admired man,” said Sandi Dorey, one attendee and parent of two former students, one a valedictorian at the school. “His dream of a Christian school in Valrico has impacted the lives of so many people.”

“He was such an incredibly humble man. It was never about him. His love of his Savior and the importance of sharing the gospel with everyone were the most important values he left me,” said McKeen, who has now taken on the leadership of the school and church along with her husband. She is also grateful for the outpouring of love and support which the school and family has received from the community, including contributions to begin a new project.

Funds have been given for a new facility to be added to the school, in honor and memory of its founder. The expansion program is expected to start this year and will result in a new high school as well as two basketball courts.

Grace Christian School is located at 1425 N. Valrico Rd. For more information, visit www.gracechristianschool.co or www.facebook.com/ GraceChristianSchoolValricoFlorida/.