Shaw was born in Minnesota in 1869. He graduated from Moores Hill College in Indiana in 1889. He taught in Kentucky for four years and then entered Garrett Biblical Institute where he was given the S.T.B. degree in 1896. Shaw was the corresponding secretary of the Methodist Board of Foreign Missions in New York, as well as a Trustee of IWU for more than three decades, and served on the Board of Trustees before he was made the 12th President of IWU in 1939. His term as President of the University lasted until 1947.