LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas is mourning the death of longtime supporter and engineering alumnus Mike Shinn. A native of Topeka, Shinn died Monday night in his hometown of Shaker Heights, Ohio. He was 72.
Shinn had a long and distinguished history of stalwart service and support to the university and the School of Engineering. He was honored in 2004 by the KU Alumni Association with its Fred Ellsworth Medallion, KU’s highest honor for volunteer service to the university. He was awarded the Distinguished Engineering Service Award in 2008. At the time of his death, he served on the KU Endowment board of trustees and the School of Engineering advisory board.
"On behalf of the KU community, I extend heartfelt condolences to Michael Shinn's family, friends and colleagues,” Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said. “I had the honor of knowing Mike both as a wonderful person and as a tremendous advocate for the university. He was passionate about KU, especially our engineering school and our efforts to improve our recruitment of minority students. We will miss him greatly, and we wish his family and friends comfort during this difficult time."
Shinn also helped found the KU Alumni Association’s Black Alumni Network and the African-American Leaders and Innovators Project. He served on the Black Alumni Network’s board of directors, and he was a director on the KU Alumni Association’s national board from 1978 to 1983.
“His passing is not only a loss for the university but also to humanity. Mike was one of the most well-respected people I have ever known,” KU Alumni Association President Kevin Corbett said.
Shinn was elected a KU Endowment Trustee and appointed to the Governance Committee in 2004. He was serving as the chair of the Trustee Diversity Task Force and was a member of the Steering Committee for the Far Above campaign.
“Mike was passionate in his support of KU, because he wanted current and future generations of students to benefit from the same opportunities and experiences he enjoyed as a Jayhawk,” KU Endowment President Dale Seuferling said. “As recently as last week, he chaired a meeting of the Diversity Task Force. I will miss his warm, broad smile under that Jayhawk baseball cap.”
Shinn also lettered in football and led the KU football team as co-captain, earning Academic All-America and dean’s honor roll recognition. He was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the 1965 NFL draft but opted for a career in industry.
Shinn earned his degree in aeronautical engineering in 1966 and was hired as a process control engineer for General Electric in Cleveland. He earned an MBA from Case Western Reserve University and was made quality control supervisor at GE’s Memphis plant in 1972.
From 1976 to 1979, Shinn worked as a production manager at Ford Motor Co.
He returned to GE to manage corporate recruiting and university development. He spurred the creation of GE’s African-American Forum, a personal and professional development program for black employees. He retired from GE in 1999. Shinn later worked as a certified financial planner for Shinn Financial Services.
“Mike leaves an indelible mark on KU and the School of Engineering, and we are forever thankful for his guidance and support,” said Michael Branicky, dean of the School of Engineering. “He was thoughtful, kind and generous. His contributions over the years are immeasurable, but his efforts to expand opportunities for minority students and increase diversity throughout the school deserve special recognition. He will be missed.”
In 2000, Shinn and his wife, Joyce, established the Mike Shinn Scholars program for minorities in engineering at KU. Since that time, 59 Shinn Scholars have completed degrees.
“Mike was such a strong advocate for School of Engineering diversity programs and minority engineering education across the country,” said Florence Boldridge, director of Diversity and Women’s Programs at the School of Engineering. “We will certainly miss his generosity of time, financial support and commitment to minority engineering education.”
Funeral services are set for 11 a.m. Saturday, March 21, at Mt. Zion Congregational Church in Cleveland. Shinn is survived by his wife, Joyce, and son, Stephen. He was preceded in death by a daughter, Colynn.