Andy McKenna volunteering in community

Andy volunteers with a partner agency in 1986.

Andy McKenna (seated, second from left) and Sean Garrett (standing, second from right), president and CEO of United Way of Metro Chicago, with Board members and community leaders at our annual Stronger Neighborhoods Awards Luncheon in 2019

This past weekend, we joined Chicago’s civic, business, and philanthropic community, alongside family and loved ones, to celebrate the life and legacy of Andrew J. McKenna, a friend and supporter of United Way of Metro Chicago for decades.

A lifelong Chicagoan who grew up in the city’s Auburn Gresham neighborhood, Andy invested his time and boundless energy in advancing the civic and philanthropic needs of the region. As an influential business leader, he often worked behind the scenes to mentor fellow board members and nonprofit leaders – including current United Way of Metro Chicago President and CEO Sean Garrett, and countless others.

Andy was a constant champion of United Way’s values as we worked together to invest in neighborhoods and people. Over the decades, his unwavering enthusiasm for the mission and his generous spirit were felt by all who knew him, especially as our Campaign Chair in 1997, when he helped raise more than $100 million for United Way’s work to build a thriving Chicago region.

His enduring commitment to serving the community through United Way continued with his involvement as a Board member from 2003–2019, including stints on the Executive Committee, as Chair of the Nominating Committee, and as a Member of the Endowment Committee.

In 2016, Andy received the inaugural Lifetime Leadership Award at United Way’s annual Celebration event, acknowledging business, civic, nonprofit, and community leaders who exemplify what it means to LIVE UNITED and invest in stronger, more equitable neighborhoods. The award would later be renamed in his honor, becoming the Andrew J. McKenna Leadership Award in 2021 to recognize an individual who has followed the example set forth by Andy and his lifetime commitment to building a better Chicago.

As we mourn his passing, our hearts are filled with immense gratitude that we were able to know Andy. That we were able to witness his brilliance and his deeply kind soul, a force for good. That we were able to call him a partner – and a friend.

Andy’s wisdom and compassion will continue to be felt by our community for generations to come. Our thoughts and prayers are with Andy’s loved ones.

“When I was 25, I had the opportunity to sit next to Andy at a United Way Tocqueville Society event. For nearly two hours, I sat with Andy and his wife and learned about his life, his interests, and how he viewed civic leadership. What struck me most was that Andy’s focus was on me. He asked questions, listened, and only occasionally would he weigh in. The room that night was full of some of the most influential leaders in Chicago, and yet, he made me feel like I was the only person who mattered. During that very same night, I would bet 15 other people would say that Andy made them feel like they were the only person that mattered. He had a way about him that allowed him to always be present, intently focused on what he was doing and, most importantly, on the people with whom he was engaging.”

“I don’t know if there is a civic leader in Chicago today who didn’t count Andy as one of the most influential people in their lives. Even though he has been there for so many, he always made time for you. He knew when to build you up but also knew when to push you harder. Simply put, Andy was one of the best people I have ever met.”

– Sean Garrett, President and CEO, United Way of Metro Chicago

1. Andy McKenna volunteers with a partner agency in 1986.
2. Andy McKenna (left) with Carlos Nelson (right), CEO of the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation, the lead agency in United Way’s Auburn Gresham Neighborhood Network, at our annual Celebration event in 2016
3. Andy McKenna (far right) receives the Lifetime Leadership Award at United Way’s Celebration event in 2016, along with fellow honorees Timothy Maloney (far left), formerly of Bank of America, and Celena Roldan (center) of American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois.
4. Andy McKenna presents at United Way’s annual Celebration event in 2017.
5. Andy McKenna (far left) and Frederick Waddell (far right) present Deborah DeHaas (center) with the Lifetime Leadership Award at our annual Celebration event in 2018.
6. Current and former United Way Board members at our annual Celebration event in 2018 (left to right): Robert Sullivan, Patrick Canning, Andy McKenna, and Ellen Costello

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