Stritch Stories collects engaging and inspirational anecdotes about alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends.
As president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of
Commerce, Tim Sheehy is a passionate advocate for education as a means to
enhance the opportunity and potential for the entire region.
That commitment was developed by a critical educational
turning point early in his life. Even today, Sheehy still recalls his grade
school report cards, which described his reading abilities as being “a little
“My mother seized on that,” said Sheehy, who will be honored
with Cardinal Stritch University’s Community Builder Award Oct. 9.
Soon, his mother sought additional help for her son and found
it at the Stritch Reading Center. Since 1943, the Sisters of St. Francis of
Assisi had operated the center to assist children in overcoming reading
difficulties, and by the late 1960s, when Tim needed some reading support, the
clinic already had a national reputation.
Over the course of several summers, Sheehy maintained a
frantic schedule of serving as an altar boy at 6 a.m. Mass, then being tutored by
the Sisters before ending the morning with some basketball.
Sheehy remembers the Sisters well, describing them as a
unique combination of “Mother Teresa and Vince Lombardi.”
“They were loving and caring but they set such high
standards,” he said. “Only the best was good enough.”
The memories have begun to fade after so much time, but what
emerged from his sessions with the Sisters was not just reading improvement,
but actually a bourgeoning love for books. Sheehy still recalls an adventure tale
about American pioneer Daniel Boone that launched a newfound passion for
“That intervention by the University, by the Sisters, was a
critical turning point in my development,” he said. “If you can’t read to
potential, it’s an anchor on your growth. Everything slows down. But I’ve grown
to love it. It’s one of my favorite pastimes.”
And although Sheehy does not have a degree from Stritch (he
graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a bachelor’s degree in
political science), he has always felt an enduring connection to the work of
the University and the role Stritch played in his education.
“It is an awesome asset to have in the community,” he said.
“And I am only one of tens of thousands of kids that were helped.”
The Reading Center, known today as the Literacy Centers, is
among the oldest in the country and remains a cornerstone of Stritch’s 75-year
Sheehy’s commitment to education has continued into
adulthood. As president of MMAC, Sheehy leads advocacy for improving the
business climate of the Milwaukee area through better public policy and
facilitates economic development through the expansion of capital investment
“The community can’t
leave people behind,” Sheehy said. “There is a chasm between people who have an
education and those that don’t.”
Addressing that chasm is Sheehy’s new passion, and is
imperative for Milwaukee’s economic development, he said.
“The most valuable asset of our community is not our
weather, or our water; it is the skills, education and talent of the people
here. It we tap into that, it becomes a tremendous asset in capital investment
To that end, Sheehy also commits his time to the cause
outside of work. He chairs the American Chamber of Commerce Executives, the
Milwaukee Economic Development Corporation, TechStar Holding Inc., and
Rocketship Charter School. He serves on the boards of Milwaukee College
Preparatory, the Milwaukee Partnership Academy, PAVE, Wisconsin Policy Research
Institute, Schools That Can Milwaukee, Milwaukee Charter School Advocates,
Milwaukee Succeeds, School Choice Wisconsin, Teach for America, and as the
treasurer of Summerfest.
For this reason, Sheehy was honored with Stritch’s Community
Builder Award Oct. 9 during the fifth annual Stritch Showcase, a fundraising
event to honor, support and celebrate the University’s 75th anniversary.
Throughout all of his work, Sheehy still carries with him a
simple lesson from the “Mother Teresa and Vince Lombardi” Sisters, one that he
hopes everyone will embrace.
“It’s the no-excuse attitude toward learning,” he said.
“There’s just no excuse why a person can’t learn.”