Chuck: Academy & Community Asset

Like many Academy participants, Chuck Shannon was no newcomer to lifelong learning when he discovered The Academy. Among other things, he and his wife Jo have always searched for travel options with a strong educational emphasis. “One of my more dynamic experiences,” he notes, “was a tour that [encompassed] an in-depth assessment of the effects of Nazism and Soviet occupation on Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.”

On Grand Meteoron PlazaSo Chuck’s expectations were high when Jo urged him to follow in her footsteps and take one of Jim Kneser’s economics classes, while Chuck was still working. When his expectations were more than exceeded, the well-known “Academy Addiction” kicked in: he was hooked on The Academy. After retiring, he plunged into classes led by Dr. Bennie Bub, Dr. Abe Flexer and Dr. Lew House. “Academy courses,” he says appreciatively, “have expanded my horizons and exposed me to quality instruction in the hard sciences for which I have no background.”

However, Chuck has his own impressive expertise in a range of other disciplines. His “two careers” began with twelve years as a division director for the Denver Regional Council of Governments and concluded with twenty-plus years in the United Way system. In his last ten years with United Way, he split his time between serving as a Mile High United Way vice-president and as a senior fellow with the United Way of America. In the latter role, he focused on developing national initiatives for the organization, fostered by his serving part-time as a fellow at Harvard. He envisions his most significant contribution to the United Way system as helping the nonprofit “define low-income communities in terms of their assets, not their liabilities,” thus “avoiding the stigma and labeling [that comes with a focus on] their deficits and problems.”

Chuck’s post-retirement volunteerism embodies the same positive, community-building approach that he initiated at United Way. As an Arapahoe Library District volunteer, he has engaged immigrants from 62 countries in English conversational circles for the past four years. In addition, he has volunteered with Denver Kids, Inc., which partners with the Denver Public Schools to match students with mentors. Though his Denver Kids commitment was a formal one for the first three years, Chuck is now informally mentoring one student from the program (currently enrolled at CU) “as a friend.”

Clearly Chuck is among many at The Academy who are making an invaluable contribution (to borrow his own language) as “community assets.”