Dr. Gustafson (left) and his father are pictured in front of a cow pasture which would eventually become the home of Grace Community Church and its school.

Situated on 26 acres of land off North Valrico Road, Grace Christian School was founded in 1975 by the late Dr. Robert R. Gustafson. Adjacent to the school resides Grace Community Church which was also founded by Dr. Gustafson only five years prior.

Since opening its doors, the school has sustained a solid reputation for its academic excellence and its emphasis on moral living and civic duty. With a population of more than 400 students, the original school building can no longer accommodate its numerous sports, activities and high school classes. To better serve the students and offer additional programs, the school will begin construction on a new building in June.

Paying homage to the school’s founder, the 42,000 square foot facility will bear Dr. Gustafson’s name. With a price tag of seven million dollars, the building will house 16 high school classrooms, administrative offices, a gymnasium with two full courts and two theater-style auditoriums to accommodate larger college-level classes and fine arts program.

Dr. Gustafson served as the pastor for the church and as the administrator for the school for more than 40 years. Today, his legacy lives on through the many lives he touched on campus, in church gatherings and throughout the community.

“Wherever he (Dr. Gustafson) went, he shared the gospel,” said By Amanda Boston Rebecca McKeen, daughter of Dr. Gustafson. “Many people in the community remember him sharing his gospel tract and his love of baseball.”

McKeen, also the Director of Institutional Advancement at Grace Christian, described her father’s passion for baseball and how he transitioned from a baseball player to a pastor.

“My dad played baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals back in the sixties,” explained McKeen. “He knew from the time he was a little boy that he would be a pastor. Even though he was doing the baseball thing, at one point while in the hospital after taking a pitch to the eye, he felt that the Lord was telling him it was time.”

To learn more about Grace Christian’s expansion or to donate to the building fund, visit www.gracechristianschool.com/Memorial/Support-19. For further details about the school or find out more about registration for the 2019-2020 school year, visit www.gracechristianschool.com. Grace Christian School is located at 1425 N. Valrico Rd. in Valrico.