By Alexis Wesling, Contributing Writer
If you are a McKendree student, chances are you have been to an event on the quad, the front lawn, the Hett, and more. There are usually tents involved, tables and chairs set up, and sometimes a projector. However, do you ever wonder who sets up the events or tears them down? Who is in charge of making these elaborate events come to life? You might have heard of a man named Shawn Connelly: the operations coordinator on campus. Not many people see him if they don’t know him – but once they know him, they realize he is everywhere. If students don’t know Shawn they are missing out on knowing one of the most interesting people at McKendree University, but let us back up for a minute because in order to understand how this man came to be, we have to dive into his past.
Shawn Connelly was born in Bethesda, Md. at a naval hospital. His father was in the army, so the family moved around constantly. Shawn grew up with his two sisters, him being the middle child. You could imagine that being army brats, their family didn’t function like most. Before his high school graduation, Shawn and his sisters had moved to 14 different schools throughout the United States. Some children would have had a hard time making friends, but not Shawn. He expressed how it was easy for him to make friends and how this had a huge impact on his life.
After graduating high school, Shawn joined the Marine Corp. He said he was always a no-nonsense kind of guy and if something needed to be done he would do it as swiftly and diligently as possible. The military allowed him to travel and see the world in a whole new light. During his time, he has traveled to 23 countries, four continents and has been to the most beautiful places in the world. The irony, he said, “some of the most beautiful places were actually in the worst parts of the world.”
He came back home after a few years and that is when he met his wife, Kristi Connelly, the executive director for communications and marketing at McKendree. When he was home visiting some family, he went out to a karaoke bar. Little did he know, this would be the night he would meet his future wife. Shawn and his wife now reside in Troy, Ill. with their daughter.
Back in 1903, the Connelly’s were a pretty well-known family around the area of St. Louis because they owned only one of two roofing companies. Shawn didn’t like the fact that a lot of people knew him everywhere he went, which is why he decided to move out of St. Louis. After his time in the Marines, Shawn started up his own contracting company and sold it after 20 years. His wife was working at McKendree at the time, and knew about the operations coordinator position that was available. He has worked at McKendree for 10+ years now.
In the beginning, Shawn and his colleague at the time were given around four responsibilities at the university. However, four became eight and eight turned into 16. He now does everything operations oriented as well as assist the VP or President with anything they need. As you can imagine, he is a busy man. Even though Shawn is involved in doing so much, he always looks at it as if he is in charge of nothing. I asked him what he meant by this and he said, “A lot of people think I am in charge, but I am just the one who does things efficiently and gets them done.”
The biggest reason Shawn does what he does is because he loves helping people. It is never his event he is in charge of, but he knows what needs to be done in order for it to be a success. Little do people know, Shawn is a jack of all trades. He handles university insurance, dining services, emergency response, Bogey Bus, and any event on campus. In his office he has an Excel sheet of every single event scheduled to stay one step ahead of everyone. One of his favorite things people say to him is, “I see you everywhere, but I am not sure what you do.” This always makes him chuckle because he knows that he does so much there isn’t enough time to explain it all.
Even though Shawn may seem like a busy man, he says that this is one of the best jobs because he has time for his family. He naturally wakes up at 4:45 am every day, goes outside to play with the dog, then gets his daughter up for school and makes breakfast. He enjoys every moment with his family and is lucky to have a job that makes it possible. Shawn’s life has never been dull because of all the people in it that he has gotten to interact with. Every day something new happens, especially when working on a campus with college students. He and his wife go home and share their stories about something funny someone had told them and they get a good laugh from it.
Shawn Connelly does not seem like a man who has a fascinating family history, seen and traveled to the purest parts of the world, experienced life or death situations, operated and managed his own company, and more. Everyone should know, you can never judge a book by its cover. Shawn has seen and been through it all, but he has always been humble and positive in his life. Due to traumatizing experiences, he has discovered that life is too short to live it unhappy. He makes the most out of his day and his favorite part is helping in anyway he can. He knows a lot and has done a lot, and at the end of the day, he is someone people can count on to get the job done.