At the time, it was a simple inquiry by a teenager: Rosary High School senior Kevin Short just wanted to know why tuition was going up 30 bucks to $330 for the 1973-74 school year.
But in hindsight almost a half-century later, Short’s inquiry helped set in motion a lifetime of significant contributions to Catholic education in the Archdiocese of St. Louis — service on numerous boards, off-the-chart fundraising and sterling leadership — all to be recognized on a national level in a few weeks.
Short, 61, is among five recipients of a 2018 Elizabeth Ann Seton Award, which will be presented by the National Catholic Educational Association at the Seton Awards Gala on Monday, Oct. 1 in Washington, D.C. This marks the second successive year in which the archdiocese has been recognized. Archbishop Robert J. Carlson received a Seton in October 2017.
Short ranks Archbishop Carlson among the significant teammates responsible for his Seton, which he views as a team accomplishment of the Today and Tomorrow Educational Foundation, the Office of Catholic Education and Formation and the archbishop.
“The Seton (is) a recognition for a whole team of people who have been instrumental in educating children in poverty in the archdiocese,” said Short, the chairman of the TTEF board for the past 12 years in 13 years as a board member. Short, TTEF executive director Sharon Gerken, former archdiocesan education superintendent George Henry and volunteer financial advisor Brad Rigdon joined forces a dozen years ago, with Archbishop Carlson coming on board in 2009 and Sister Nathalie Meyer, OP, joining last year as interim superintendent of Catholic education/formation.
In nominating Short for the Seton, Sister Nathalie praised him for “relentless and unwavering commitment to make a quality Catholic education available, affordable, and accessible to all children in our community, especially those without options … ensuring that thousands of students every year have access to a life-transforming, faith-based education. Mr. Short’s visionary leadership is much more than volunteering, it is truly a vocation.”
The archbishop stated Short’s leadership enables “a significant investment in our youth, helping each child to reach his or her full potential as a child of God and hand on the faith to future generations.”
Short deflects such praise, crediting teamwork for enabling TTEF to increase fundraising from maybe $500,000 a year in the late 2000s to about $14 million a year today, “which turns into about 5,000 scholarships per year,” he said. “None of us could have done it by ourselves. … If that team would not have come together, this award would not have happened. This award is about accomplishment, and there wouldn’t have been any accomplishment without those teammates.”
Today and Tomorrow was founded by Sister Mary Ann Eckhoff, SSND, the archdiocesan superintendent of Catholic education from 1981-95. For seven years before that, she was associate superintendent, which followed a four-year stint at Rosary High School where a young Kevin Short questioned her about the tuition hike. Unbeknownst to him at the time, he made quite the impression, learning about it only in a chance meeting when he was 23.
“I went up and introduced myself, and she said, ‘Kevin, I know who are,’” Short said, adding that she told him, “‘In my 40 years of education, you’re the only student who ever came to me and challenged an increase in tuition.’”
But a 10 percent hike seemed high, especially to the eldest of six siblings.
“She very patiently explained inflation and teachers’ salaries,” he said, adding that Sister Eckhoff “always remembered that,” later telling him, “‘I liked the way your mind worked.’”
After becoming superintendent, she recruited Short to serve on a succession of not-for-profit boards. He estimates that he has served on 25-30 boards since that fateful meeting, including 35 years on the archdiocesan board of education. She checked in with him often, including during her time in Rome serving her community.
“She always wanted me to do as much as I could from a charitable standpoint,” he said, adding that Sister Eckhoff laid out her master plan upon returning to St. Louis. “She said, ‘I’ve been trying to get you ready to take over the Today and Tomorrow foundation. She was trying to broaden my network and experience. … She said, ‘Now is time.’”
And he’s better for it, concluding the charitable work has given him “a lot more than I give, by far” and counter-balances his day job in the often rough-and-tumble world of mergers and acquisitions. After tough days or negotiations, he “gets a chance to spend the afternoon or evening with nuns and priests and people doing great things. It really has balanced my life for 35 years.”
The Kevin Short File
Family • wife, Patti; children, Brittney Hearn, Jennifer Dengel, Kelly Burke and Alexis; three grandchildren
Parish • St. Roch, St. Louis
Secular career • Managing Partner/CEO, Clayton Capital Partnership
Current boards • Today and Tomorrow Educational Foundation (chairman); Finance Council of the Archdiocese of St. Louis (chairman); Show-Me Institute (vice-chairman); Roman Catholic Foundation of Eastern Missouri; Mercy Hospital System; The Children’s Scholarship Fund
Childhood parish/school • Our Lady of Loretto, Spanish Lake
St. Louis question • Rosary High School
College • University of Missouri-St. Louis (bachelor’s degree in finance)