Distinguished Alumni Awards
Distinguished Service Award
John Shahan (64A, 69C)
Having arrived at Berry Academy at age 14, John Shahan (64A, 69C) proudly tells others that he “grew up at the high school.” The only reason he was able to stay in school and receive an education,
he says, was because of the work program.
Since then, Shahan has never questioned his dedication to the community that has done so much for him. “I feel loyal to Berry because of what I experienced and the opportunities that I had,” he
Shahan’s extraordinary assistance to classmate Jimmy Fletcher (64A, 68C) has become almost legendary among those who know about the friendship between the pair. Though the two weren’t close in high school, Fletcher, a class valedictorian limited in his mobility and speech due to multiple sclerosis, asked Shahan for help getting to his class reunion.
Shahan was happy to assist, and adopted the role of helper to his friend until Fletcher’s death in 2010. “One of John’s self-imposed responsibilities was to make sure that Jimmy never missed attending an event that he wanted to attend,” said Don Leachman (63H, 67C).
According to Roger Harris (63H), “Jimmy’s life was enhanced by the fact that John was always there for him.”
Shahan helped establish the Jimmy Fletcher Scholarship in memory of his friend and regularly encourages is high school and college classmates to support it. “It’s just a way of giving back,” Shahan said.
From 1969 to 1977 Shahan held a variety of jobs at Berry, including teaching industrial arts, coaching baseball and junior varsity basketball and serving as a dormitory supervisor. In 1972 he was named Berry Academy’s Gund Instructor for outstanding involvement, achievement and excellence in teaching.
“I have an emotional attachment to the Mountain Campus, and the fact that I was able to come back to teach here strengthened that attachment,” he said.
Shahan was also on call to provide housing and assistance to his former teacher and coach Jerry Shelton (58C) during two separate occurrences of life-threatening illness. Because Shelton’s closest
family is in Tennessee, Shahan and his wife, Jo, offered to take Shelton into their home in Rome during his rehabilitation. “He is the one who stayed with me through difficult times,” Shelton said. “He
has meant a great deal to me.”
Shahan has owned John Shahan Construction Company since 1977. During his career, he was honored with an Outstanding Service Award and the President’s Award from the Rome Home Builders
Association and has also received the Metro Rome Kiwanis Club President’s Award.
In addition, he coached city colt league baseball teams for the Berry Academy players and the town of Cave Spring, Ga., and coached girls basketball at the Rome YMCA, girls church league softball and men’s adult league softball.
Shahan served three terms on the Berry Alumni Council and is an enthusiastic participant at Alumni Work Week. He is a founding member of The Berry Breakfast Club, a group focused on renewing and maintaining the history of the Berry Schools on the Mountain Campus.