It is with a heavy heart that I share with you the passing of our dear friend and brother Shawn McKenna, Maine ’77.
Shawn leaves behind an enduring image of Brotherly Love for us all to emulate. Despite a prolonged battle with cancer, Shawn was consistently positive and optimistic. He felt strongly about the impact that SigEp can make in the world and gave of his time and talents without reservation.
Shawn was initiated into the Maine Alpha Chapter at the University of Maine, where he earned his degree in business administration in 1977. From 1977 to 1982, Shawn served on Sigma Phi Epsilon’s staff as regional director, director of chapter services and managing director for the National Housing Corporation (now SigEp National Housing, LLC).
Brother McKenna selflessly and heroically served as a volunteer for several chapters and as a mentor for brothers young and old. In 2007, he received SigEp’s highest honor, the Order of the Golden Heart, awarded to alumni who, with great personal sacrifice, have given exceptional service to the Fraternity.
At the 2009 Grand Chapter Conclave in Orlando, Florida, Shawn was elected to Sigma Phi Epsilon’s National Board of Directors. A Director of SigEp National Housing for over 30 years, Shawn served as its president from 1988 to 1990. Professionally, Shawn worked for The Procter & Gamble Corporation during the 1980s, wrote a book on marketing and later left to form his own business. He co-founded SDO, Ltd., in the early 1990s and served as the company’s managing director and CEO.
Shawn fervently supported his alma mater at the University of Maine as a member of the Board of Advisors for the School of Business, as a member of the Maine Foundation Board and as an adjunct professor. He was an avid motorcycle enthusiast whose penchant for adventure led to him to live with his family in Moscow for several years while developing a business.
Shawn leaves behind his wife, Deb, and their three children. Debbie was truly the love of Shawn’s life. They shared a deep and abiding love. For most of his life, Debbie was Shawn’s SigEp sweetheart who loved, supported and raised their remarkable children. Both of his sons are SigEp members, leading Shawn to remark, “I am touched to be able to call my sons my brothers — in the best fraternity on the planet, Sigma Phi Epsilon.”
Below are some words from the friends and brothers who knew him best.
Shawn was a superb friend, brother and family man. He was a true man of sterling character who mastered himself to live a life well-lived. Even in dying, we could observe the lessons of strength, grace, humor, humility and love. He was always willing to lend a hand and help. I will surely miss him.
— Col. Bob Lanham, Indiana ’77
Shawn had the unique ability to see over the horizon to the destination our Fraternity should strive for. His passion was SigEp Housing. When Shawn was on staff, he established the Equity Management Fund, which is now used by 49 chapters with an investment of $3,100,023. With his leadership, our housing loan portfolio grew from a couple million to nearly $30 million. He helped develop and implement our Residential Learning Communities to make our houses safer and more consistent with the universities we support.
— Bert Harris, Past Grand President, Florida ’74
Shawn was the core of our staff. He was always bigger than life. He was intense, but loving. He embraced Jack Wheeler’s notion of Brotherly Love. If you loved him you loved him deeply.
— Doug Nabhan, Purdue ’77
I worked with Shawn for over 20 years, since 1991, as a Director with the National Housing Corp. (now SENH), and even later with various housing projects or other Fraternity events. While I do not have the experience of the early RD years, I can say that I got to know a SigEp rock star with the SENH activity. Shawn was the consummate businessman, executive, leader, friend and brother. His presence came with a combination of keen intellectual analysis and puckish wit. It was always a pleasure to work with him, and sometimes down a drink or two after a long day of meetings. Shawn was a standout among other exceptional volunteers, and he will be dearly missed. With sadness in his untimely passing, I offer my condolences to Shawn’s family and all who knew him.
— Jon Kucera, Virginia ’69
Shawn was the type of husband, father, role model and friend we all strive to be. He had a true gift for making everyone he knew feel better about themselves. I would be remiss if I did not share what a blue collar fighter he was. He fought off two bouts of cancer before succumbing to the third. When my family visited with him on Sunday, he had a Muhammad Ali poster hanging over his bed to remind himself not to give up and to keep on fighting.
— Tim Bryant, Massachusetts ’89
While our brother was with us for far too short a time, we are comforted in the fact that we are all made better for having known him. And we look forward to the day that we will once again be glad to grasp him by the hand and call him “brother.”
Rev. Ray Ackerman
SigEp National Chaplain