Shawn McKenna, personal friend to me and to the Hyde community for over half a century, passed away last week after a long battle with cancer.
If you’re a Hyde long-timer, you don’t need to be introduced to the McKenna family. If you were a student in the 60s, 70s, or 80s, you were probably taught how to balance your checkbook by his mom, Dot. (I don’t think she ever felt she succeeded with me.) If you’re a recent athlete, chances are you have done some rehab work with brother Shane at his Universe Gym.
As his obituary explains, Shawn impacted countless lives in a myriad of roles: spouse, father, friend, alumnus, teacher, and professional. He led and consulted with companies across the country, taught business students at his beloved UMaine, opened successful restaurants in Moscow, and a whole lot more. But that’s not why I’m writing this.
Twenty-five years ago, Shawn McKenna added “author” to his long list of accomplishments with the publication of The Complete Guide to Regional Marketing (1992). While I was honored to receive a complimentary copy at the time, his personal inscription rendered it a lifelong keepsake:
“I know that being a Morse High grad and an author are not quite consistent.* However, I hope this book makes sense to you. Granted, it is not exactly the most exciting piece of work ever done. It will, however, help you fall asleep at night.”
[* Easy, Shipbuilder friends… His words, not mine! And they’ll make sense if you read on.]
Shawn was one of the first kids I met when I entered Bath’s Fisher School as a 6th-grader in the middle of the 1965-66 school year. Overly shy and unsure of myself in my new surroundings, I fondly recall and deeply appreciate the fact that Shawn went out of his way to make me feel part of the school and our neighborhood. He was that way his whole life. (e.g., Forty-five years after our Fisher School days, he was deeply supportive to me during my own cancer experience.)
After high school rolled around — he went to Morse; I went to Hyde. — we had an awful lot of fun razzing each other about our respective schools. The truth is, he was a Hyde supporter all his life, and he provided me with helpful suggestions and professional counsel throughout my tenure as Hyde’s president. As for me, although I would not trade my Hyde education for anything, let me come clean about something: I know I missed out on something. Truth is, I have always admired and envied the esprit de corps embodied in the Shipbuilder community. And Shawn is at the top of the list of those who have always personified that pride to me.
In honor of Shawn and his family’s long-standing relationship with Hyde, we decided to present him with a Hyde diploma. While I think we’ve only done this once before, it just seemed to be the right thing to do. Although I regret that we were unable to give it to him in person, perhaps it is fitting that we pass it along to his family, a family that has played such an important role of support and enrichment within our community since the very beginning.
Philosopher/psychologist William James (1842-1910) wrote, “The greatest use of a life is to spend it on something that will outlast it.” At risk of understatement, that would be you, Shawn. Thanks and RIP, my friend.