At the 2017 Orlando Conclave, SigEp brothers and friends committed more than $250,000 to establish and endow the Shawn McKenna Presidents Academy. The program — named for late National Director and Order of the Golden Heart recipient Shawn McKenna, Maine ’77 — will provide education and support to new chapter presidents attending SigEp’s annual Carlson Leadership Academy.
McKenna, who lost a prolonged battle with cancer in June 2017, was a lifelong advocate of leadership education. He was the author of a course in leadership and taught part time at the University of Maine. The Shawn McKenna Presidents Academy will be based on the same leadership philosophy that influenced his university curriculum, a successful career in business and years of volunteer leadership in SigEp.
The Carlson Leadership Academy ensures chapter officers have the skills needed to manage a committee and follow through on their goals. The program also helps executive board members work together and ensure their goals are consistent with a unified vision for the chapter. More than 2,800 SigEp leaders enrolled in the 2017 academies.
Speaking at the second biennial Conclave gala, National Director Garry Kief, Southern California ’70, announced the plan to endow the presidents’ program in McKenna’s memory. “The Shawn McKenna Presidents Academy will teach the young men charged with leading our chapters how to make tough decisions and how to think critically to achieve their goals,” Kief said. “They’ll learn to be the men our society needs — men like Shawn.”
McKenna’s wife, Deb, joined Foundation President Ed Hammond, Emporia State ’66, and Grand President Rick Bennet, Central Missouri ’74, onstage at Hard Rock Live in Orlando to accept a commemorative proclamation establishing the academy.
Reflecting on the emotions of the night,
gala attendee and 2017 Citation recipient Dan Hicks, Arizona ’84, said, “I never knew Shawn McKenna, but just being at that gala last night and being in that room and feeling the respect and the love for him, I felt like I knew him.”
The proceeds from the gala’s live auction provided a substantial portion of the academy’s endowment. The remaining funds were raised the following evening during the Alumni Awards Dinner when the official Conclave banner was auctioned off in support of the program. An emotional series of bids included one from Steve Hofstetter, Columbia ’02, who spoke of the kindness McKenna and his family had shown him during Hofstetter’s year traveling the Northeast as a regional director. The winning bid was placed by Tom Jelke, Florida International ’90, who immediately donated the banner to McKenna’s home chapter at Maine.