ENDURING RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SBP AND THE USNA CELEBRATED AT 2019 ANNUAL SCHOLARSHIP GALA
“Go forth from your country, And from your relatives, And from your father's house, To the land which I will show you.” Genesis 12:1
God’s command to Abram, quoted often by Michael R. Scanlan H’97 during his acceptance of the Medal of St. Benedict at the 2019 Annual Scholarship Gala, emerged as a unifying theme for the event honoring those who initiated the unique relationship between the United States Naval Academy and St. Benedict’s Prep twelve years ago.
Nearly 300 people gathered in the HAB gym May 9 for the Gala, which raised more than $200,000 for Forever Benedict’s: The Campaign for St. Benedict's Prep and celebrated the commitment to St. Benedict's of three deserving honorees: Vice Admiral (Ret.) Michael D. Haskins, Donald L. Laurie ’60 and Mike Scanlan, whose efforts made possible the successful partnership between the two institutions.
The evening’s engaging emcee, Francis Jean-Paul ’19, welcomed the crowd with a reminder to all not only of the special relationship they’d come to celebrate but also of the commitment to others that it takes to live in any community. In his own Gray Bee story, he noted the powerful challenge of “giving up things I want for what the community needs” – a challenge shared by both the Naval community and Benedict’s. Jean-Paul also posed a financial challenge to guests to raise $25,000 to help fund the cost of tuition for up to three students. His persuasiveness paid off as the goal was met and exceeded – guests generously pledged more than $40,000 using their smart phones.
Headmaster Fr. Edwin Leahy, O.S.B. ’63 thanked all in attendance, noting the huge encouragement the support of alumni and friends is for him. Recalling last year’s kick-off of the Forever Benedict’s campaign for which $60 million had already been raised, he said, “We have now surpassed $71 million.” He also read a letter of congratulations from U.S. Senator Cory Booker, a long-time supporter of Benedict’s.
Former Senior Group Leader and current midshipman Tyler Hayes ’15 Introduced Vice Admiral Haskins, a highly decorated officer who graduated first in his class at the Naval Academy, was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship, and earned a Master’s Degree in International Relations and Economics from Oxford. Currently a consultant on Leadership and Ethics, he was the Distinguished Chair of Leadership at the Naval Academy and the Director of the Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership from 2006 to 2007.
Vice Admiral Haskins began his remarks by ringing the Coker Bell*, a gift to St. Benedict’s in honor of Navy hero, George Coker ’61. Dressed in “choker whites,” the Admiral apologized to the many midshipmen in the audience in similar stunning attire for the hassle of wearing the uniform. In his talk he traced the genesis of the idea that he and Don Laurie had some 12 years ago to bring together midshipmen and Benedict’s students to teach and learn from each other the fundamentals of what defines good leadership. Generating the idea is one thing, he said, but getting it implemented in institutions is another. Luckily his stature at the Academy meant that “what the boss says, goes.” And because of the influence of Don Laurie and the work of Mike Scanlan, the collaboration took flight.
Admiral Haskins said the program here has changed the lives of the participants, both midshipmen and Gray Bees. Thirty-seven years of active duty and teaching leadership and ethics has taught him that the two must go together. Leadership – the art of motivating people to achieve a desired aim – is empty without an ethical framework. So his young leaders, armed with that ethical framework, left their own comfort to journey to a “new land.”
Liam Reilly ’18, also a former Senior Group Leader and current midshipman, introduced Don Laurie, Chief Executive of Oyster International and a nationally recognized consultant to CEOs and senior managers in the development of leadership agendas and corporate growth. Fr. Edwin noted that Laurie, a long-serving member of the Board of Trustees, “has introduced us to more people and more opportunities than anyone else.” And when Laurie presented his idea to challenge midshipmen to teach leadership at St. Benedict’s while learning from Benedict’s young men in return, Admiral Haskins was first intrigued and then persuaded.
Laurie proudly rang the Coker Bell and accepted the Medal of St. Benedict in honor of his father, Donald Laurie, Sr., his hero and a Navy Lt. Commander who fought in the Pacific in World War II. He also named his other heroes – Admiral Haskins among them. The others included Laurie’s football teammates and military men, Brian “Moose” Conlan ’61 and George Coker ’60. Conlan, a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corp, was killed in action in Vietnam; and Coker, a Navy aviator, was shot down over North Vietnam and held as a prisoner of war for seven years, two and half of those in solitary confinement.
That the St. Benedict’s leadership internship is one of the most highly sought after at the Naval Academy is a source of immense pride for Laurie. He expressed particular gratitude not only to Admiral Haskins but also to Mike Scanlan for bringing the collaboration from a great idea into a thriving reality. Thanking Mike, Fr. Edwin and the others at The Hive, he said these friendships and the work of St. Benedict’s have given “great meaning to my life and the to the lives of the kids we serve.”
Fr. Edwin also presented Laurie with a Governor's Citation from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, commending him for “countless hours helping St. Benedict’s Prep.”
After an introduction by midshipman Joseph Carmona ’17 and a standing ovation from the crowd, Mike Scanlan stepped up to ring the Coker Bell and opened his remarks with the verse from the Book of Genesis in which God admonishes Abram to leave what was comfortable and go to a new, unnamed and unfamiliar place.
Scanlan came to Benedict’s in 1998 at the suggestion of Charles Cawley ’58, the founder and CEO of MBNA. Just as the countless freshmen who climb the steps of the stoop at 520 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard not knowing what awaits but trusting, on some level, that “God will show them,” Scanlan also trusted that he could “go forth into a land that God would show him.”
Scanlan traced his professional and personal journey over more than 20 years, from his position as the executive in charge of community relations at MBNA America Bank in Delaware to St. Benedict’s, where he has held many positions ranging from supervisor of renovations of the entire school to management positions in both the business and advancement offices to Assistant Headmaster. He started the 520 Corporation, the student-led maintenance operation; leads students on college visits; photographs all manner of student athletics, activities and events; and serves as the invaluable behind-the-scenes guy who gets things done. All the while, he has remained a valued and loved counselor and confidant to hundreds of Gray Bees.
He counts his “operationalizing” of the Naval Academy-St. Benedict’s Prep leadership training idea in 2007 as one of his most personally satisfying contributions to The Hive. And he credited Admiral Haskins and Don Laurie for their innovation.
“Teaching leadership alongside the midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy would not be possible If Don (Laurie) and Admiral Haskins had not come up with this innovative idea to expand our students’ horizons,” Scanlan said.
Scanlan closed by thanking his friends, family, and supporters of St. Benedict’s in attendance.
“If you are new to this community, and like our students and me, heeded a call to be here...I hope you have had a good time and maybe you saw an opportunity to be part of something bigger than yourself,” he said. “And I hope you too can find a way to stay connected and be a part of this new community that God has shown you tonight.”
*The Coker Bell, dedicated to Vice Admiral Michael Haskins and Donald L. Laurie ’60, is rung by students after significant achievements -- making honor roll, winning championships or receiving other national awards. It is rung by every student after accepting their diplomas at graduation.
Video from the 2019 Annual Scholarship Gala