Jerry McKenna '69 Makes a Major Gift, Then Keeps on Giving
Gerald McKenna '69 says he and his wife, Pat, decided to fund a scholarship for needy Saint Michael's students "because I was a needy student," Jerry says.
A job and student loans helped Jerry get through Saint Michael's, which he'd heard about through a pal at his Catholic high school on Long Island. In Winooski Park, Jerry drew inspiration from professor Arnold Gianelli, who became a good friend and guided him through his economics major; and from Cleveland Williams, who was advisor to the student government where Jerry served as Student Association president; and from Edmundite Fr. John Stankiewicz, an imposing figure who put the fear of God into the occasionally wayward young man, for which Jerry later thanked him.
Jerry observed that by showing respect to their "charges," these men were in turn well respected. It became a winning leadership formula for Jerry after college, first as a U.S. Air Force officer who soon realized, "it was your sergeants who got things done." He participated in ROTC at St. Mike's before serving in Germany as a pilot, supporting the Special Forces in Europe. In time, he became a top marketing executive for R.J. Reynolds in North Carolina, followed by a long stint at Cable One Inc., a communications company in Arizona, where Jerry and Pat now live.
"I always felt very attached to the College, because it's where I learned critical reasoning and analytical skills," he says. "I have a great group of friends and we have a wonderful time when we get together for reunions." At his 40th Reunion in 2009, Jerry and Pat decided to make a substantial testamentary gift to the College earmarked to a scholarship fund. For the previous 35 years, he'd given nearly every year as he was able, and he says, "I want to continue because the College has needs every year."
Now that Jerry's retired, he'd like to do more alumni volunteer work, beyond the phone mentoring for current students that he's already doing. "I'd like to say to my classmates, since we're coming up on our 45th Reunion this year, it's a good time for us to consider giving legacy or multi-year gifts to the College, because none of us are getting any younger!"
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