Roanoke College President Michael Maxey has aannounced that the College has received the single largest cash gift in the school’s 179-year history.
Shaun McConnon, a Massachusetts-based cybersecurity expert who founded several high-tech security companies, has donated $15 million for the College’s new Science Center. He is a 1966 graduate of Roanoke College.
“Shaun McConnon’s extraordinary gift represents a new chapter for Roanoke College, and we are grateful,” President Maxey said. “Shaun’s gift will help us realize our goals for the new Science Center, a space that will benefit many generations and our surrounding community. When complete, the Science Center will foster the types of meaningful academic and personal, purposeful connections Roanoke College is known for. This is an exciting time in our College history.”
With his record-breaking gift, McConnon challenges the College to match the donation by the time Maxey retires in August 2022.
“I’m hoping that my donation and my story will help other alumni think about how Roanoke College may have helped and inspired their lives and careers,” McConnon said. “I felt that at this point in my life, after a rewarding career, I would give back to Roanoke College. I am asking all alumni to consider donating to the future of the College, and the new Science Center. It will be rewarding for them, the College and future students who aspire to greater things.”
McConnon majored in biology at Roanoke College, with a minor in chemistry. He credits several Roanoke College professors as being instrumental in his success. “Dr. Karl Beck in psychology was phenomenal and Dr. Harry Poindexter in history,” McConnon said in a 2013 article. In his major and minor programs, he particularly remembers Dr. Harry Holloway Jr. in biology and Dr. Charles Bondurant in chemistry as being challenging academic powerhouses whose instruction helped him throughout his life and career.
McConnon recalls his classes in writing, history and psychology as especially helpful in his life, both in his career and particularly as a writer. He credits Dr. Matthew Wise, an English professor, with teaching him how to write and how to tackle the process. McConnon, also an author, has written several books, including “Supremis,” a science fiction novel. McConnon is currently editing a book he recently wrote about his career in the technology industry.
McConnon began his technology career with Honeywell and went on to Data General and Sun Microsystems. McConnon’s next career phase involved creating, building and then selling high-tech security companies that detect abnormal, suspicious or intrusive activity. He founded four companies: Raptor Systems, Okena, Q1 Labs (acquired by IBM to form a security division) and BitSight Technologies.
The new Science Center will impact every student at Roanoke College — those majoring in the sciences and those majoring in other academic fields.
Every student at Roanoke takes at least three courses from the programs that will be housed in the Science Center. One-third of all courses on campus will be taught in the Science Center. Most of the student research will take place there, and it will house three of Roanoke’s 10 most popular majors: psychology, biology and environmental studies.
“Thanks to Shaun’s generosity, we can envision a college with a future cutting-edge science facility that will make our already outstanding institution even greater. With the help of the entire Roanoke College community, I know we can meet Shaun’s challenge this year,” said Kim Blair ‘93, vice president of resource development. “Shaun’s phenomenal gift and challenge to our alumni will help us make this transformational space a reality and benefit generations of future Maroons.”
For more information about the Science Center and the McConnon Science Challenge, visit roanoke.edu/sciencecentergift.