An Empathetic Ending

An Appreciation of McKenna Hall

The world has expectations of human beings. The world expects every good kid to go to Kindergarten, Grade school, Middle school, High school, Universities, and colleges, and then off into the real world to find a stable job. A status quo, so to speak. In a broad sense, anyone who doesn’t follow this status quo is looked down on or is seen as a failure. Yet, life is like a roller coaster. There are many twists and turns, suddenly causing a change in course, a shift in momentum. Truly life must be deeper than achieving a good job with good pay. I think college is a great medium for finding what an individual is meant to do. But it’s not the end all be all. I appreciate Seattle Pacific University because it emphasizes going to college in order to do something meaningful with your life, to go against the status quo and try to bring something to the help alter the world for the better. It’s a wonderful idea, and this message is what I respect the most about this school. I am thankful for the smaller elements as well, such as the staff, the facilities, and the community that makes SPU a wonderful place to be.

I push open the doors of Emerson Hall and walk down the sidewalk. Light fills my vision, as the sun radiates on me. Sounds of conversation fill the air, as people pass me chattering. I feel the gentle breeze pass through my bones. Thirty seconds after walking down the sidewalk I see it, Mckenna Hall. To my left is an expanse leading to the parking lot behind the building. On the side of the building is a backdoor, with the words “Seattle Pacific University” printed onto its frame. The color of the building is a familiar burgundy red, similar in fashion to the rest of the campus buildings. From the windows, I see classes with students sitting at desks, listening to a lecture. I pass by to the front and notice several offices, with bookshelves lined up against the window. More classes are in session, as seen from the front windows. Students are taking notes as the professors speak. I see the greenery of the trees and bushes in front of these windows and notice how they sway in the wind. At the end of them, a metal rail signifies the building entrance. The four doors at the end of the entrance are constantly opening and closing with students going in and out. To the right of the entrance, the building suddenly changes shape as a concave tower protrudes from the building, with numerous windows hidden behind more trees in front. Surrounding the trees are more bushes and various plants, giving the building some much need color. As I continue walking I wonder what goes on behind those doors.

Exterior of Mckenna Hall (Appendix A)

Mckenna Hall is the business building here at Seattle Pacific University. I pass by it every day on my way to my dormitory in Emerson. I’m not a business major, but it is a secondary interest of mine in case my first major doesn’t work out, so the building has always peaked my interest. It’s mostly made up of brick and steel with glass windows and two floors. It’s square in shape, except for an odd circular portion in the rightmost corner. (Appendix A). Personally, I’m rather fond of the asymmetrical architecture, because without this sort of feature this building would probably be the most generic looking building on campus. Trees are in front of the building and provide the place with a bit more color. On the front of the building lies a plaque that states “David L. Mckenna 5th president of SPU… dedicated Jan 4, 1983, to the education of Christian men and women in business… In grateful memory of Donald L. Snellman for his vision and gift.” The tale behind these names is interesting, to say the least.

The building was created in 1981, after a businessman by the name of Donald Snellman gave Seattle Pacific University a grant of $500,000 (spu.edu SPGE). Not much other information is given on this mysterious businessman who gave SPU such a large sum of money. I looked in the SPU “A New Vision” book held in the archives and scoured the index looking for his name. Other than the fact that he gave SPU a grant, no other information about him is mentioned. Searching the web, I discovered a death record of the late Donald Snellman. According to this record, Donald Snellman was born on July 19th, 1924 and passed away at the age of 75 on September 19th, 1999 (Rate Limited). He gave this grant towards the end of his lifespan. It can be deducted that Snellman grew up at the start of the golden age of capitalism and was probably able to amass wealth because of this. Alas, his reasoning for donating money to Seattle Pacific University is unclear. Perhaps Snellman’s vision was simply the education of young individual minds.

In the philanthropic leading I’ve done so far, many of the philanthropists seek to leave a mark on the world. They try to get a building named after them or a monument made in their honor. Yet it seems this man Donald Snellman did not seek to gain a legacy from such a generous deed, as he did not demand to have a new building on campus named after him and seemingly donated money out of good intention. I think that this man’s thinking would align with that of Andrew Carnegie as described in “The Gospel of Wealth”. He donates a large sum of money to an institution, rather than for instance, directly to the poor. Carnegie believed that giving money directly to the poor would end up doing more harm than good; they could spend it on drugs, or waste it on foolish desires. Likewise, Snellman, by donating money to a Seattle Pacific University, he ensures that no money will be wasted. The money will be concentrated on furthering the education of young minds. Additionally, he can still indirectly help the poor, as being a Christ-centered school with a motto of engaging the culture and changing the world, some students are bound to work towards helping poorer individuals. Either way, this building could not have been built without the help of Snellman and for that, I thank him sincerely, as he allowed Seattle Pacific University to grow and prosper, and ultimately become the school it is today.

While Snellman’s name is on the plaque in front of the building, the building itself is named after a different man entirely. David L. Mckenna was the 5th president of Seattle Pacific University. He was elected on March 9th, 1968 (McNichols). Shortly after taking office, Mckenna was faced with obstacles. The school at the time was undergoing a financial crisis, due to overspending and an attitude present at the school against innovation (McNichols). Mckenna dealt with these problems swiftly and efficiently. To handle the debt, he froze capital expansion, negotiated to postpone accounts, set budget restrictions, investigated all the debt accounts he could potentially eliminate, and launched an emergency fundraiser (McNichols). During April 1969, Seattle Pacific University was nearly one million dollars in debt, with nearly 75,000 dollars of accumulated interest. A few years later, the efforts of Mckenna proved successful, as the debt was cut down to zero dollars with only 25,000 dollars of interest (McNichols). Perhaps, the building was named after president Mckenna due to his financial feats. The building dedicated to business was named after the man of great economic prowess. His financial success not only secured SPU’s future but also the future of hundreds of future business students, eager to engage the culture, and change the world.

There are several things in Mckenna Hall that I am grateful for. For instance, Mckenna is designed in such a way that professors have their offices right above the classes that they teach, therefore it is easy for students to meet with their professors after class, and get to know them better. The professors can use these meetings to know the students by name, and at a deeper, more personal level. The fact that Seattle Pacific University even has a business school is worth noting. Some students don’t have a dedicated building for business majors, and therefore, it is a blessing to have such a resource, allowing business-focused students to meet with other students with similar goals and plans. I also appreciate the wonderful programs that this building offers. For instance, the Social Venture Plan competition is a contest in which students compete against one another and try to come up with a way to use business to help change the world for the better. This is a great way for the students to get some practical business experience, as well help the people of the world who are poor, homeless, and in need.

The whole vision of Seattle Pacific University itself is to engage the culture and change the world. These students are practicing the philanthropic model described Aeschylus’s “Prometheus Bound”, love for people, and self-sacrifice, of their own time and energy out of that love for people. Prometheus endured endless pain and suffering in the lowest place of Greek Mythology because he loved humanity. Like Prometheus, these students, are philanthropists. Although they may not be rich, they are trying to use business to help parts of the world not out of self-gain but instead out of love and compassion for other human beings.

Seattle Pacific University is rooted in the Christian faith, that differs from the worldly mindset. It’s unique, as it offers an exterior motive and purpose to college rather than making money and finding success. For instance, I was coding for my computer science class assignment that I had been given, when, my Student Ministry Coordinator walks in and asks what I’m doing. I tell him I’m studying for computer science. He simply asks me “Why”. “Why are you studying computer science?” I told him it was because computer science is a field that makes a lot of money nowadays. Then he went on “Why do you need money?” I told him I wanted to make money in the real world to live an easier life.” He just kept asking questions “Does money guarantee you an easier life?” I told him it doesn’t. “Then why are you studying?” He said once again. I then answered him “Because it’s what the world expects us to do.” I thought about what I said. Going to school, we learn that education is a means to success. After high school the world expects us to go to college to be successful. Success in this world is measured by money. How much we have, how much we earn, how much we give? Is this really all we were meant to do in this world? Make money? Then what? What’s next? We grow old and disappear from existence. Our money is gone. Our possessions are gone. We are gone. Life must have a greater purpose than this.

This is what I appreciate the most about Seattle Pacific University. It gives me a far deeper purpose than simply achieving “success”. It encourages me to help people in need. To go out into the world, and bring change to the world that’s broken, full of pain and suffering. To try and make this world, a little bit better, by showing love and kindness, values that are far more fulfilling than worldly possessions. I hold a Christian worldview. I believe the world is sinful by nature. It can’t be denied that evil exists in this world. Likewise, it can’t be denied that good exists in this world. I don’t think that the whole world can be saved, from falling further into sin and darkness. But I do have confidence that individuals on this earth can be saved, through the sharing of this love and kindness. Therefore, I’d like to thank Mr. Mckenna, and Mr. Snellman one last time, for continuing the life of a school with a vision. A vision to shed some light on a world shrouded in darkness.

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Works Cited

“Campus Buildings.” McKenna Hall — Campus Buildings — Seattle Pacific University. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2016.

McNichols, Donald. Seattle Pacific University: A Growing Vision, 1891–1991. N.p.: n.p., 1989. Print.

“School of Business, Government, and Economics.” School of Business & Economics — Seattle Pacific University. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2016.

“Donald L. Snellman — Death Record.” Rate Limited. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2016.

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