High-tech Exec

January 14, 2014

McConnonForWeb copy 306“I bought two coffees – one with milk, one without – and three pastries. What would you like?” asked Shaun McConnon ’66, directing me into the kitchen after a quick tour of his home. Nice touch, I thought to myself, not knowing what to expect next from this immensely successful high-tech security entrepreneur. After settling down in the living room, McConnon, with some prompting, began to tell how a man like him got to be a man like him, despite all odds.


McConnon’s hardscrabble early days did not foretell a successful life. His father was an only child, orphaned at 16. He served as a Tank Commander lieutenant in Patton’s Third Army, 16th Armored Division. He worked in the insurance industry, moving his family around from Brooklyn, N.Y. (where McConnon was born) to Queens to Levittown and, ultimately, to Lynchburg, Va. He was rarely home and, according to McConnon, seldom really present.

McConnon’s mother, whom he describes as “pure Czechoslovakian,” was the daughter of a coal miner and one of 11 siblings. In the late 1920s, her family was evicted from their home in the company-owned coal-mining town of Shoaf in western Pennsylvania, when John L. Lewis called the famous coal miner’s strike.

McConnon’s mother and father met under the large globe in Flushing Meadows at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, a romantic touch in a union later sorely tested.

McConnon admits that he was a handful as a boy because his father was seldom around. “They sent me off to a Catholic boarding school, where I benefited as much from the context as the education. They took care of me.”

McConnon moved with his family to Lynchburg, where he attended E.C. Glass High School his last two years before college.

“My academic performance was good, but not great, and I yearned to leave home. It got so bad in the summer of 1961 that I ran away from home for three months, hitchhiking 800 miles back to New York City at age 16 and staying with friends for almost three months. No one called to ask how I was doing. The experience hardened me, put a chip on my shoulder, and told me that I had to survive in the world on my own, by myself. No one was going to be responsible for me but me. At that point I became a man, somewhat flawed, but a man. Or at least I thought so. I only started growing up at Roanoke College three or four years later.”

At E.C. Glass, McConnon softened what he calls his “tough guy New York edge.” He ran track, developed good relationships and stabilized himself. After high school, McConnon headed off to a small college in Missouri (Tarkio College), which folded a few years later. Determined to become a veterinarian, McConnon got good grades at Tarkio and later gained acceptance as a transfer into the Class of 1966 at Roanoke.

McConnon’s Roanoke years were tumultuous yet growth-inducing. He majored in biology, and minored in chemistry; he tutored classmates in math, biology and chemistry. He loved psychology (“Dr. [Karl W.] Beck was phenomenal.”) and history (“Dr. [Harry E.] Poindexter was great.”). And he says that English professor Matthew Wise taught him how to write.

McConnon held down several jobs to pay his college bills, as he had no financial support from family after his second year. “I did a little of everything from selling sandwiches in the dorms to working for a firm that delivered the campus laundry and dry cleaning,” he said. He also ran track – fast. A top sprinter, he ran anchor on Roanoke’s champion 4 x 100 relay team. (Morris Cregger ’64, current chairman of Roanoke’s Board of Trustees, ran on that same relay team.)

McConnon loved his fraternity, Kappa Alpha Order, but turned down leadership roles. “I was feeling sorry for myself. My loans were piling up, and I didn’t want the extra responsibility,” he said.

In addition to his personal trials, McConnon shared the uncertainty of college men around the country during those years. “The Vietnam War was raging, and none of us knew where we would be after graduation.”  The military rejected him because of his lifelong problem with asthma.

After graduation, McConnon went to work for Wyeth Labs, a pharmaceutical company out of England. For two and a half years he did pharmaceutical research in teratology and toxicology in Paoli, Pa. “Unfortunately, I was allergic to all their lab animals, and after two years, the company transferred me to sales,” he said.

The pharmaceutical sales job proved frustrating, but then a friend told him of a job that marked a key turning point in his career.

“RCA was starting a computer division, and they were looking for a person with a degree in science who loved puzzles. That was me!” Indeed, it was. In fact, McConnon had been chess champion at the Catholic school he’d attended.

The computer division faced stiff competition from IBM and was later bought by UNIVAC, later renamed UNISYS.

McConnon didn’t get a job with UNISYS, but he was heavily recruited by Honeywell’s newly minted computer division. “My new bosses had been former football stars: West Point’s kickoff returner and Navy’s kicker, two very competitive guys. They liked me, and they taught me everything I needed to know in my early sales career.”

From Honeywell, McConnon went to Data General, a competitor of the multimillion-dollar Digital Equipment. McConnon then went on to Sun Microsystems, where he compiled a superb record as New England regional sales manager. “I hired over 200 sales reps and managers, and we kicked some serious competitive butt as we built one of the largest and most competitive high-tech organizations in the U.S.”  He then went on to help establish Sun Microsystem’s presence in Australia.

After returning to the United States, McConnon launched the next phase of his career: starting, building and selling high-tech security companies, which detect and flag abnormal, suspicious or intrusive activity. He’s accomplished this feat not once but three times: Raptor Systems, Okena and Q1 Labs. And he’s in the early stages of his fourth start-up: BitSight Technologies.

Goldman Sachs, McConnon’s banker for Q1 Labs, gave him a plaque indicating that these three companies had sold for over $1 billion combined, earning the investors a small fortune.

But how? How has Shaun McConnon attained such astounding entrepreneurial success in the fiercely competitive high-tech arena?

McConnon offers his own explanation or, more accurately, his business philosophy: 1. hire the best and the brightest people to build your management team; 2. create a culture that taps your employees’ skill sets and helps them thrive; 3. treat people with respect; 4. focus on your competition ruthlessly; 5. raise money when you don’t need it, because having a sufficient supply of cash helps the company weather the storms; and 6. be honest and authentic.

McConnon noted that high attrition is a cancer in any business, especially the high-tech industry.  You have to create an environment in which people want to stay with your organization, he said. And that’s precisely what he has done.

Tom Turner, currently a vice president of marketing and business partnerships for IBM’s security division, worked with McConnon on two of his ventures, and he can explain some secrets to his mentor’s success.

“Shaun knows what makes people tick [which  is] a tremendous asset in hiring, managing a team and negotiating. He has an uncanny ability to look into the future of the high-tech industry in order to position a company to be successful. And he’s not afraid to fail.” When Turner adds that McConnon is “a bit of an Irish rogue as well as an existential businessman,” one gets the sense that people like working with McConnon, that the bonds extend deeper than a typical business relationship.

John Egan, a lawyer with Goodwin Procter in Boston, speaks from the perspective of having known McConnon for 20 years. His firm helped take some of McConnon’s companies public.

“Shaun is an amazing visionary. Some people can see where the puck is now; he sees where it’s going to be in five years. He sets the vision and gets the buy-in from his people. I’ve seen some great negotiators, and Shaun is the best I’ve ever seen. His people know that they can trust him and that he has their backs. And he’s got a great moral compass; he does what’s right.”

David Fachetti, a venture capitalist with Globalspan Capital Partners, said McConnon “has all the attributes of the classic entrepreneur: great market intuition, incredible resilience and a positive energy. People want to work with him.”

One might think that after creating and selling three companies, McConnon would be content to sail into the sunset or, more likely, down to his second home on Seabrook Island, S.C. One would be wrong. McConnon is currently masterminding another start-up: BitSight Technologies, which, according to its website, “transforms how technology companies manage risk.”

“I’m not sure I’d know how to retire,” he said, laughing, as he talked about his latest venture. He makes reference to the part in the film “Patton” where Gen. George S. Patton is shaking his fist at the sky and yelling, “They can’t have a war without me.” McConnon then admits that he shares Patton’s furious passion, though on a different battleground; he doesn’t think there should be another breakthrough in security technology without him being somewhere on the field, leading the charge.

Passion, to be sure, characterizes other areas of McConnon’s life. He and his wife, Bonnie, are major donors to Rosie’s Place, a home for battered women and their children, and to the Pine Street Inn, a leading provider of housing for the homeless.

The McConnons also founded Home Away Boston in May, 2012.The nonprofit organization provides free, comfortable housing close to Massachusetts General Hospital for Children for families who come from afar for their children’s medical care. Many of these children are cancer patients coming to Boston for six weeks of proton radiation treatments.

As the Home Away website notes, “Our objective is to remove some of the stress of daily living and so enable the families to focus on their child’s health and healing.” The nonprofit currently offers three one-bedroom units for children (and their families) undergoing treatment. Plans call for expanding to nine residential units and creating a common space to meet the unmet housing and support needs of families coming to Boston for pediatric medical services.

Asked why he feels so strongly about Home Away Boston, McConnon said, “How could I not? I just look at the faces of those kids. They’re smiling, while their parents are crying.”

Bonnie McConnon added, “It’s amazing to see the courage in the faces of the kids with cancer when you know what they’re going through.”

A chat with Kimberly Sheridan, program manager at Home Away Boston, revealed another side of McConnon’s nature. “I worked at a restaurant where Shaun and his wife Bonnie often went, and I got to know them,” she explained. “Last spring he asked if I’d be interested in a new position opening up at Home Away Boston, so I took him up on the offer and started in May. He’s been very successful, but he believes in the people he picks out. He believes in me, and he’s been encouraging me to go to college. Shaun is such a generous man.”

Pat Boring, McConnon’s sister-in-law and friend for 30 years, said she doesn’t know anyone more generous. “He has a great sense of family, and he helps out people in our family without waiting to be asked. He’s also the kind of person who keeps up with his friends. You can’t say that about too many people these days.”

Terry Smith ’66, a longtime friend and a fellow member of Kappa Alpha, said McConnon, “was a brilliant student, so he didn’t have to study much. But he still took full advantage of the activities.” Smith recalled that as a member of the fraternity’s “Ways and Means” committee, McConnon was the guy who made sure that if the beer ran out, more beer magically arrived, quite possibly from another fraternity.

When asked to explain McConnon’s business success, Smith said, “He’s got a magnetic personality. People just like being around him. He’s got that authoritarian air. When he talks, people listen.”

McConnon came to realize, later in life, the tremendous impact Roanoke College made on him beyond the deep ties with his college friends. “I had deluded myself into thinking that I was just a self-made person, but the more I thought about it, the more I appreciated what Roanoke did for me. I owe a lot to that place.”

Jack Hills, a development professional who is former vice president for Resource Development at Roanoke and a current consultant to the College, was the person who reconnected McConnon with the College. “I knocked on his door in Wayland a little over two years ago. We had an incredible conversation, and he wouldn’t let me leave. He got tears in his eyes when he started talking about what Roanoke College meant to him. He’s remarkable.”

“Shaun has a big vision, but he can also listen. He’s a leader, but he can also follow,” Hills said.

That meeting led to a visit to Roanoke and, in short order, a seat on the College’s Board of Trustees in 2012.

President Michael Maxey said he appreciates the wisdom and insight that McConnon brings to the Board.

“Shaun is a big-picture guy, always thinking about possibilities. He creates a sense of urgency in a good way. He’s persistent, but not stubborn. I’m awed by the vastness of his intellect. He’s a great example of the lifelong value of a liberal arts education.”

McConnon has already had some productive brainstorming sessions with Maxey and other trustees about the challenges and opportunities facing Roanoke College. It’s a safe bet that Roanoke will be an even better place in the future because of his great vision, keen intellect and deep devotion to the College.


After we concluded our conversation, Shaun McConnon showed me around the grounds behind his home. I commented on the beauty of the landscaping, and he noted that he had picked out every plant and bush and tree. Somehow, it didn’t surprise me that he has a natural gift for spotting beauty in plant life as well as talent in people. He also showed me the serene spot he had created in a rise among the trees for his mother, who liked to sit there in her final years.

When asked about his hobbies, McConnon said that he liked to write. And he takes writing seriously. He recently finished a science fiction novel, “Prophecy,” which he’s sent off to a publisher in New York City. He gave me a few chapters to read, which I found highly imaginative and visionary.

During our visit, McConnon had spoken proudly of his two sons, Matt, a successful salesman with IBM and accomplished athlete, and Ian, who has a Ph.D. in French Literature from the University of Pennsylvania and is a classical musician.

As he ushered me through the living room, McConnon pointed to a Steinway grand piano. He said he had given it as a surprise to his son Ian. “I wrapped a ribbon around it, and he burst into tears when he saw it. I really miss listening to him play.”
About the writer: David Treadwell, a Maine writer, specializes in writing for colleges and universities throughout the United States. He has worked on numerous writing projects for Roanoke College over the years and sings the College’s praises to whomever will listen.






John Stafford ’57 leads by example

January 8, 2014

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The greatest hope that John Stafford ’57 has for Roanoke College is that it remains a viable and affordable institution for all students. One way to ensure access to higher education, he says, particularly as costs continue to rise, is through scholarship support, and he’s happy to serve as an example for others.

“The background I received at Roanoke College has given me a lot of help over the years, so it’s been very important for me to be able to give back,” says Stafford, who serves as Southwest Virginia/East Tennessee co-chair on the Roanoke Rising national Campaign Steering Committee.

Like many alumni, Stafford began giving back to Roanoke with what he calls “a nominal donation” through which he became a member of the Associates Program. Later, he and his wife, Shirley Lawhorn Stafford, were able to increase the amount and endow a scholarship in honor of their daughter, Jennifer, through their estate plans. As a result, the Staffords are members of the College’s Society of 1842 and they continue to make scholarships a top priority in their philanthropic efforts.

John Stafford wanted to strengthen alumni outreach and involvement, and he was instrumental in establishing the Southwest Virginia/East Tennessee Alumni Chapter, of which he is now chair.

“There are some strong alumni in the area,” Stafford said from his home in Jonesborough, Tenn. “We’re trying to help make them more so.”

The Roanoke Rising campaign, he says, is another way he can help make Roanoke better.

“It’s a very worthy cause. The school has made some remarkable strides in the past and really done well. The leadership is great,” Stafford says. “Roanoke Rising is an opportunity to give back and help the school in the scholarship area and by making the effort to help the school on an overall basis.”

“The impact of a gift is far-reaching no matter what size,” he adds. “The more we can encourage giving, the more advantageous for the school — and all of us.”


Photo caption: John Stafford, right, with George Kegley ’49, at the Roanoke Rising campaign launch in April. Both men have been recognized as Roanoke College Medalists for their outstanding service to the College and their communities.

—Nan Johnson


This article appeared in the Roanoke Magazine, Issue two, 2013. The full issue can be seen on the roanoke.edu website.

John and Lynn Reichenbach: graduation offers fresh connection to RC

January 8, 2014

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For Emily Reichenbach ‘13, Roanoke College was the perfect fit. For her parents, John and Lynn Reichenbach, it still is.

Growing up in Massachusetts, Emily — the second-oldest of the Reichenbachs’ four children — learned about Roanoke from a friend. Though she’d been accepted at several other schools, it stood out from the rest. For Emily, Roanoke was the place.

Although Emily has graduated, the Reichenbachs have maintained their level of involvement with the school even after Emily’s graduation. As former co-chairs of the Parent Leadership Council, the couple are now active participants in Roanoke Rising: The Campaign for Roanoke College, serving as New England co-chairs on the national Campaign Steering Committee.

“We’re committed to supporting Roanoke College because we feel it was such a gift to Emily,” says Lynn Reichenbach. “She grew as a person and found her strengths and weaknesses. When Emily left Roanoke, she felt she’d accomplished something. She developed skills and found out what the next stage of her life would be.”

That next stage was Manhattan, where one of Emily’s first professional forays after graduation was an unpaid internship at a leading American womenswear design firm that turned into a paid position after only her first day. “She’s loving it because she’s getting a lot of exposure to so many things,” Lynn Reichenbach says.

Exposure to various real-world experiences is part of Roanoke College’s appeal.

Through its “residential” experience, the Reichenbachs say, Roanoke provides opportunities for students to learn how to deal with others, how to form bonds and how to juggle time and commitments. Students have opportunities to interact with faculty and staff as well as members of the Salem community, which the couple feel is part of the College’s many strengths.

As a cross-country athlete who played softball during the summer and worked at a local women’s specialty clothing store during her years at Roanoke, Emily learned to balance the many demands on her time.

“The Roanoke College community is a small enough environment so that nearly everybody knows everybody else, yet it’s large enough that there’s a diversity of experience,” John Reichenbach says. “I think Emily learned a lot at Roanoke that she would not have learned elsewhere. It’s living in a community and adopting it as your own. That’s something Roanoke provides that you can’t get in lots of other ways.”

Roanoke Rising provides opportunities for families like the Reichenbachs to stay connected with friends, alumni, teachers and other families who share a bond with the College.

“Roanoke Rising will strengthen and position the College for the future, increasing the opportunities for experiential learning and enhancing the College’s already considerable charm,” Lynn Reichenbach says. “The new Cregger Center at the core of the campus will strengthen the residential college experience, providing continuous opportunities for student and faculty interaction.  The new facilities and larger endowment underpin the college’s existing strengths, and will make the student experience so much stronger. I wish I were going off to college!”

The Reichenbachs feel just as connected to Roanoke College now as they did when Emily was a student. They encourage others to follow suit.

“Roanoke College provides an environment that has high standards and yet provides support that enables students to rise to those high standards,” John Reichenbach says.

As parents of a Roanoke graduate, they want to help others enjoy the same experience.


Photo caption: The Reichenbach family. Seated from left to right, Ned, Emily and John Reichenbach. Standing, from left to right, Mimi, Lynn and Charlie Reichenbach.


— Nan Johnson


This article appeared in the Roanoke Magazine, Issue two, 2013. The full issue can be seen on the roanoke.edu website.

Roanoke Rising: Cregger Center Plans

November 27, 2013

The following article was written by Meagan Cole ’14, student writer for The Brackety-Ack, Roanoke College’s student newspaper. The article appeared in the Nov. 15 edition of the newspaper.

Since the beginning of the Roanoke Rising campaign in April 2013, a lot of talk has been generated throughout the Roanoke College community about erecting the campus’s two latest buildings. The first, the Cregger Center, is an all-new sports center that will house a gymnasium, fitness area, and one of the largest indoor tracks a college has to offer. The next project will upgrade the Science Complex, both Trexler and Life Science, some years later. The latest hum of excitement came on November 5 when President Maxey released an official video to discuss the future of both projects.

The video chose to highlight Roanoke College’s most recent developments, such as Lucas and New Halls, to first recap how much the campus has grown in the past decade. In fact, some current students still remember when the Market Street Complex was the latest and greatest, which opened for the 2009 fall semester. Since then, Lucas was the chosen academic building to be refurbished with an entirely “green” mentality. Lucas is home to the foreign language department and is LEED certified, meaning the building conserves energy and saves the environment. New Hall, on the other hand, is much more luxurious. It’s even been given the nickname “the Hotel” by students who live within the dorm.

All of these accomplishments have moved the campus forward in regards to college standings, but the Cregger Center and Science Complex intend to put Roanoke College prominently on the map. Bowman Hall is seeing its last residents this school year and will be torn down to make way for the Cregger Center. Not only will the Cregger Center give birth to an improved athletics department nearby the soccer and lacrosse field, but additional dining and academic areas will go into its construction as well. The current timeline suggests that the Cregger Center will be opened for the start of the 2015-2016 school year.

While the Science Complex is currently in an anticipated project without specific years tying it down, President Maxey touches on how the science departments have received recent renovations within the video. The green house, laboratories, and state-of-the-art equipment have really stood out, expanding the students’ horizons in ways very few undergraduate schools can offer. And, when the Science Complex is completed, the facilities will be seen in an impressive, modern light.

President Maxey concludes the video by reminding its viewers that none of this could be possible without the generosity of the campus community’s donors. Every building is a tribute, a literal monument to those whose names are on each placard, and their continual support is how Roanoke College stands above the rest. To become a part of the giving family, be sure to check out the Roanoke Rising campaign in more detail.

SWVA/East TN, Roanoke Valley & Atlanta Campaign Events

November 27, 2013

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In Southwest Virginia, the Roanoke Rising campaign kicked off on Sept. 10 with an alumni gathering at the historic Martha Washington Inn in Abingdon.  John Stafford ’57, the chapter chair and a campaign steering committee member, welcomed the group of Roanoke and Marion alumni and told them about the campaign. Nancy DeFriece is a co-chair of the campaign in Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee. President Mike Maxey also spoke to the group about the College’s recent Up and Coming ranking with U.S. News and gave more details about the campaign’s priorities.

Barry Firebaugh ’67 talked about how important it is for all alumni to participate in the campaign, even if they can’t give a large amount. The Southwest Virginia/East Tennessee chapter knows participation well, having won the Henry Hill Alumni Chapter Challenge previously.  Last year, the Charlotte, North Carolina chapter won the Hill award, which comes along with a bell trophy.

“There are those at Roanoke College who will say this is a friendly competition,” Firebaugh said. “But we want to go after Charlotte and bring that bell back,” he said as he encouraged alumni to participate in the Roanoke Rising campaign.

See event photo gallery here.


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The annual Roanoke Valley alumni gathering was held at the Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center on Sept. 12. A large group of alumni reconnected at the regional campaign kickoff and enjoyed a lovely evening. Bob and Wendy Rotanz are co-chairs of the Roanoke Valley campaign, and they welcomed the group and talked about the importance of the next few years for Roanoke College.

William and Mimi Coles also are co-chairs of the campaign, and they stressed the importance of having wide participation in the campaign. Attendees watched a video about the campaign. Also, it is available online for anyone who missed the local event. 

See event photo gallery here.



In Atlanta, Roanoke alumni gathered on Oct. 8 at the Cherokee Town & Country Club to reconnect with each other and get updates on the Roanoke Rising campaign from President Mike Maxey.

Malon Courts ’92, one of the Atlanta co-chairs, invited the attendees to join him in participating in the campaign. “The opportunity is before us,” Courts said. “We have a strong vision for the future.”

Peggy F. Horn ’78, co-chair of the Atlanta regional campaign, talked about the strong impact Roanoke professors have on their students.

“Dr. John Spitz and Dr. Ed Siefried changed my life,” she said.

See event photo gallery here.

Finkenstadts donate artwork to Roanoke College

November 13, 2013

TogetherIt started as a way for Hilton Head, S.C. residents Ernie and Joyce Finkenstadt to honor their daughter and son at Roanoke College, the children’s alma mater in Salem, Va.

Nearly 25 years ago, the college offered parents an opportunity to name a study room in the Fintel Library, then under construction on campus. Each room would have a nice plaque displayed outside the door so people could see who helped build the state-of-the-art facility.

The library, which opened in 1991, includes a third-floor study room with a plaque outside its door bearing the names of the Finkenstadt’s daughter Pamela, a 1986 graduate, and son Todd, who graduated in 1991.

The Finkenstadts, who lived in Upper Saddle River, N.J. prior to their move to Hilton Head, have since stayed connected to Roanoke College throughout the years.

“We were asked to be co-chairs of their Parent Leadership Council,” Ernie Finkenstadt said recently. “We thought they were doing some very fine things at the College and our children were benefiting from the many advances the College was implementing.”

Roanoke College has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the nation’s Up & Coming national liberal arts colleges, ranking this year as No. 2 up-and-comer. The Princeton Review has named Roanoke College one of the best in the United States in its “Best 378 Colleges” 2014 guidebook.  Roanoke is one of just 7 percent of colleges nationwide with a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.

Joyce Finkenstadt, an accomplished artist who has produced paintings of landscapes and outdoor scenes of the Northeast, said she knows Roanoke College recruits many students from the Northeast. “We thought they might relate to some of the scenes I had painted,” she said.


Joyce contacted Jack Williams, director of regional programs in the College’s Resource Development department, and asked if it would be possible to hang some of her paintings in the study room. In August, eight of her paintings were hung on the study room walls.

While “it is nice to leave some type of legacy,” Joyce said, “Ernie and I wanted it to be even more personal than just a sign.”

Regional Campaign Events

October 25, 2013
Region Date Time Location
SWVA/East TN Sept. 10 6:00-8:00 Martha Washington Inn
Abingdon, VA
 Roanoke Valley  Sept. 12 6:00-8:00 The Hotel Roanoke
Roanoke, VA
 Atlanta Oct. 8 7:00-8:30 Cherokee Town & Country Club
Atlanta, GA
Charlotte  Oct. 10 6:00-8:00 Mint Museum Randolph
Charlotte, NC
 Baltimore Nov. 6  7:00-8:30 The Maryland Club
Baltimore, MD
 Charlottesville Nov. 7 6:00-8:00 Boar’s Head Inn
Charlottesville, VA
 Washington, D.C. Nov. 17  5:00-7:00 The University Club
Washington, D.C.
Philadelphia Nov. 21 6:00-8:00 Merion Cricket Club
Haverford, PA
New York Dec. 4  7:00-8:30 New York Athletic Club
New York, NY
 New England Dec. 9  7:00-8:30 TD Garden
Boston, MA
Hampton Roads Dec. 16 6:30-8:30 Town Point Club
Norfolk, VA
 Richmond  Dec. 17 6:30-8:30 The Jefferson Hotel
Richmond, VA


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Briscoe and Kenan White pose with Roanoke's mascot, Rooney.

Family creates Good Shepherd Endowment Fund to support environmental studies

July 12, 2013

Salem – When Ben White ’11 was a student at Roanoke College, one of the most powerful experiences he had was to work with a small group of students to study the use of green roofs on buildings owned by the City of Roanoke.

These efforts were not only educational, but the students presented their ideas to the city, received recognition from the sustainability board and helped the city confirm its path toward developing the green roof in place today at its Noel C. Taylor Administration Building.

White, an environmental studies major at Roanoke, said this type of firsthand learning experience was a critical component of his environmental education.

Today, White and his parents, Briscoe and Kenan White (pictured above), are helping to ensure that future Roanoke students have similar experiences. Through their family foundation, the Good Shepherd Fund, the Whites have created the Good Shepherd Endowment Fund for Environmental Studies. The endowment fund supports experiential and firsthand learning opportunities for upper-level students in Roanoke’s environmental studies program.

“We had two goals in mind: to support the environmental studies program and to create a fund that hopefully others will be attracted to,” said Kenan White. “We hope others will give to this fund. I’d like to see it grow and grow. If such a fund had been in place when Ben was a student, we would have given to it, so now we are hoping for support for the Good Shepherd Endowment Fund’s continued growth.”

“Roanoke is a wonderful resource,” she added. “This funding will allow the students to get tied in with things going on already.”

The White family knows about the environment. Their family farm, Sandy Fields Farm in Virginia’s Charles City County, was the first in the country to be 100 percent compliant with the Chesapeake Bay Act. The farm also uses no-till farming methods and filter strips to ensure that all waterways have been protected. They use rotational grazing methods in managing their Dexter Cattle herd as well.

The Whites’ business, The Growers Exchange, grows and sells over 150 varieties of herbs throughout the continental United  States. They use biologically sound principles in growing and in all aspects of the business, from packaging to the choice of shippers, reflecting a business model that they refer to as “grown right.”

Both Briscoe and Kenan White have been involved with numerous environmental organizations, including Delta Waterfowl, The James River Association and The Nature Conservancy of Virginia, the country’s leading conservation organization which protects ecologically important land and water globally.

After graduation from Roanoke, Ben White took a semester-long course in Chile through the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). Now, he works for a Google Ventures company in Colorado.

“It excites me now that this [fund] will help revitalize the environmental studies program, to allow more intensive and hands-on learning,” he said.

While at Roanoke, Ben White also was involved with RC Electric, a student group working to convert a classic gas-powered car into a fully electric vehicle. The project continues and the students involved hope to have the car running with its new engine during the 2013-14 academic year.

Dr. Gail Steehler, who coordinates Roanoke College’s Environmental Studies Program, believes the Good Shepherd Fund will have a huge impact on the program.

“It will help us to realize some things we’ve wanted to do,” she said. “Now, we will be able to implement them on a larger scale. We are seeing significant student growth in the program, so it’s perfect timing for additional resources.”

Steehler expects the Good Shepherd Fund to support student projects, such as those connected to a class project as well as ideas suggested by students. The fund also will provide support for projects in the environmental practicum, a capstone course for environmental studies majors.

“It will also help strengthen ties with the community,” Steehler said. “We plan to name a faculty member as the experiential project coordinator, and the Good Shepherd Fund will help the coordinator to make connections in the community.”

Roanoke College, a classic liberal arts college in Salem, Virginia, combines firsthand learning with valuable personal connections in a beautiful, undergraduate setting. Roanoke is one of just seven percent of colleges nationwide with a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honor society. The Princeton Review lists Roanoke as the 18th most beautiful campus in its “Best 376 Colleges” 2012 guidebook.

Follow Roanoke College on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. For additional information, call the Roanoke College Public Relations Office at (540) 375-2282.

Roanoke Launches $200 Million Campaign with Surprise $25 Million Pledge

April 13, 2013

Roanoke College is undertaking the largest campaign in its 171-year history, with one of the largest single gifts ever given in the Roanoke Valley fueling the $200 million campaign. Roanoke Rising: The Campaign for Roanoke College, which publicly kicked off on April 13 at the College’s Alumni Weekend, had already reached more than 50% of its goal when Roanoke President Michael Maxey announced a significant gift from the Mulheren family of Rumson, NJ, and Paint Bank, VA. Alumna Nancy Mulheren ’72 and her family, which includes son Sandy ’02, his wife Vanessa ’02 and her late husband John ’71, made the $25 million pledge to the surprise of the 1,100 guests in attendance. This pledge is the largest gift ever given to the College.

“I have no doubt that Roanoke is among the finest liberal arts colleges in the nation,” says Mulheren, who serves on the College’s Board of Trustees. “I believe in Roanoke. Roanoke College has always been deep in our hearts and my family wants to do all that we can to make a difference. In honor of my family’s life changing experiences at Roanoke and in support of generations of young Maroons to come, I am pleased to share our gift of $25,000,000.”

“The world needs people and institutions who out-think, out-perform and out-do the expected,” says College President Michael Maxey, “and Roanoke graduates embody this idea.  This gift is a tremendous testament to the way Roanoke alumni go on to make an impact on the world and to aspire beyond ‘business as usual.’”

According to the College’s Vice President for Resource Development Connie Carmack, “This campaign will have a transformational impact on Roanoke College.  To be able to launch our campaign with a gift of this magnitude is exceptional. The generosity and loyalty of Roanoke alumni is remarkable. We are positioned for unprecedented success.”

Roanoke Rising: The Campaign for Roanoke College will raise funds for five priorities:

  • Facilities and Capital Projects—Two primary endeavors are the new Cregger Center, a campus center for athletics, academics and community; and renovation and expansion of a comprehensive science complex; as well as various smaller projects.
  • Academic Programs and Faculty Support—Academic programs and faculty support will include enhancements in the core curriculum, majors, and experiential learning programs; and funding for endowed positions and professional development.
  • Scholarships and Student Support—Scholarships will allow more students pursue a Roanoke education, and student support will enable students to participate in study abroad, research, creative works, service learning, and internships.
  • The Roanoke Fund—Roanoke’s annual giving program helps provide additional college aid and meet its operating needs each year.
  • The President’s Fund for Excellence—This opportunity fund will allow Roanoke to take advantage of concepts and programs that will emerge over time.

The Cregger Center will be named for Morris Cregger ’64, Roanoke’s Chairman of the Board and the lead donor for the facility. The Cregger Center will house a performance gymnasium with a 2,500 seat capacity, a field house with the Roanoke Valley’s only competitive indoor track, a fitness center for the entire campus and an athletic training facility. The College’s Health and Human Performance faculty, as well as academic and lab space, will be housed in the building, allowing students immediate access to experiential study.  The field house can be converted to a mid-size event and auditorium space for lectures, concerts, community activities, and college functions such as commencement.

Roanoke’s plan for the science facilities includes renovating the current Massengill Auditorium and connecting it to two adjacent buildings, Life Sciences and Trexler Hall, which will also be modernized over subsequent years.

Roanoke President Michael Maxey says, “What excites me most about this campaign is that it fuels the basic human transaction that happens on campus between professor and student, between coach and athlete, between mentor and protégé. Roanoke Rising is about enhancing our unique environment for making these connections happen in ways that answer the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s students.”

More about Roanoke Rising, including a new video outlining the campaign, may be found on the campaign website at RoanokeRising.com.

In less than two decades Roanoke has advanced from being called one of the best regional colleges in the South to being twice recognized by U.S. News & World Report as a Top 10 Up and Comer among the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges.

Roanoke College, a classic liberal arts college in Salem, Virginia, combines firsthand learning with valuable personal connections in a beautiful, undergraduate setting. Roanoke is one of just seven percent of colleges nationwide with a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honor society. The Princeton Review listed Roanoke as the 18th most beautiful campus in its “Best 376 Colleges” 2012 guidebook.


Campaign kicks off with gala celebration

April 13, 2013

Roanoke Rising: The Campaign for Roanoke College fundraising campaign launched Saturday, April 13, at Alumni Weekend. The College announced the largest campaign in its history, with a fundraising goal of $200 million and five priorities:  capital and building projects, scholarships and student support, academic programs and faculty support, the Roanoke Fund, and the President’s Fund for Excellence.

The evening’s biggest news was a surprise announcement of a $25 million pledge from Roanoke alumna and Board member Nancy Mulheren ’72 and her family, which includes son Sandy ’02, his wife Vanessa ’02, and her late husband John ‘71. Mulheren shared, “I believe in Roanoke. Roanoke College has always been deep in our hearts, and my family wants to do all that we can to make a difference. In honor of my family’s life changing experiences at Roanoke and in support of generations of young Maroons to come, I am pleased to share our gift of $25,000,000.”

This pledge, the largest in the College’s history, brings Roanoke to well more than half way to its campaign goal.

According to the College’s Vice President for Resource Development Connie Carmack, “To be able to launch our campaign with a gift of this magnitude is exceptional. The generosity and loyalty of Roanoke alumni is remarkable. We are positioned for unprecedented success.”

More than 1100 alumni, students and friends of Roanoke College celebrated the momentous kick-off with food and festivities under a large tent on the College’s back quad. The evening began with a reception and personal testimonies of how Roanoke has inspired a student, an alumnus and a staff member. Bob Rotanz ’78 emceed the event.

“We are here because we believe in the future of Roanoke College,” said Rotanz, a standout lacrosse player for Roanoke in the seventies who now owns Mac & Bob’s restaurant in Salem. “You believe, as you always have, that you have a part to play in that vision.”

President Mike Maxey addressed the crowd with details about how the campaign will change Roanoke’s future through its five priorities. They include funding for building and capital projects, student scholarships and support, academic programs and faculty support, the president’s opportunity fund and the Roanoke Fund.

The capital projects include construction of the Cregger Center, an athletic and educational building that will house a 2,500 seat performance gymnasium, the Roanoke Valley’s only indoor competitive track, a fitness center, an athletic training facility and classrooms and labs. The center will be a crossroads for campus life and a center for health and wellness.  The center is named for Morris Cregger ’64, who is the chair of Roanoke’s Board of Trustees.

Roanoke track and cross country athlete, Emily Reichenbach ’13, said the center’s planned indoor track will be a great enhancement to the campus. “Academics and athletics are at the core of Roanoke College,” she said.

The second capital project is a state-of-the-art science complex that will connect three campus buildings, Massengill Auditorium, Trexler Hall and Life Science into a cutting-edge modern science facility.

“I sincerely believe that when we have reached the successful conclusion of this campaign, you will look back over a transformational period in the history of Roanoke—a transformation that will enable the college to rise to a new level of excellence and national acclaim,” Maxey said.

In the last three years, Roanoke has twice been named as  a U.S. News & World Report’s Top 10 Up and Comer among the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges.

The program for the event featured a video history of Roanoke College by Steve Mason ’91 and featured music by Roanoke College student ensembles, including the Roanoke College Choir, the Oriana Singers and the Roanoke College Jazz and Wind Ensembles. After the program, the kickoff became a campus-wide celebration, with dancing and music by the Waller Family Band.


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