What's Happening in Character?

The Legacy of an Honorable Man: Remembering Sandy McDonnell

Posted by Joe Mazzola on Tue, Mar 19, 2013 @ 11:03 AM

describe the imageOne year ago, a great American died.  His name was Sandy McDonnell.  He was an honorable man who left behind a remarkable legacy.  It is one we can all learn from.

Sandy was brilliant.   After graduating from Princeton and completing graduate school in Colorado, he worked on the Top Secret Manhattan Project during World War II.  Afterwards, he went on to reach the very highest levels in the corporate sector.  He rose through the ranks to become CEO of a giant aerospace company.  Along the way, he traveled the world, met Presidents and heads of state, and received lots of high-level awards and honors.

Sandy had a very impressive resume, for sure.  However, that’s only part of the person he was.  You see, he was the total package.  Sandy also had a great sense of humor, a huge heart and a warm personality with the ability to make everyone he spoke to feel special.  He was also tall, handsome and athletic.  And, he was a gifted speaker and writer, a generous philanthropist, a person of faith and humility, and a wonderful father, grandfather and husband to his wife of 60 years.  He was even an amazing artist.  

So, based on all of this, you might conclude that Sandy McDonnell’s lasting legacy was that he was a “great leader, a very successful Captain of Industry, a pillar of his community, and a dedicated family man.”  Well, that’s all true, so you’re absolutely right.  However, once again, that’s only part of it.  

Sandy McDonnell was also the “Father of the Character Education” movement in America.  He devoted much of his adult life (and treasure) to supporting quality, intentional character development in schools.  As for the impact he made, let me put it this way--If it weren’t for Sandy McDonnell, there would be:
                NO Character Education Partnership in Washington, DC;
                NO National Forum on Character Education for the past 19 years;
                NO Eleven Principles of Effective Character Education;
                NO National Schools of Character recognition program;
                NO Promising Practices in Character Education program;
                NO Endowed Chair for Character Education at a university in St Louis;
                NO Leadership Academy for Character Education; and
                NO  CHARACTERplus, which reaches hundreds of schools across Missouri.

Sandy McDonnell was a “larger than life” person most of us read about but never meet.  Through the above initiatives and organizations he had a hand in creating, Sandy profoundly and positively impacted the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, young and old alike.  And, the work continues today.

In closing, Sandy’s legacy certainly includes his family and his many professional achievements.  However, a huge part of this great man’s legacy is also the remarkable work he did to improve schools and develop honest, ethical, caring, responsible and compassionate citizens who will do the right thing and improve our nation and world.  That’s something we should all appreciate and learn from.

What will be your legacy when you “complete your final orbit around the sun on this little spacecraft we call earth,” as Sandy used to say?  If it’s anything like his legacy, you will have lived a very meaningful life.

Topics: character, CEPLeaders, leadership, integrity