Fairfield Now - Fall 2009
Class of '93 profile
Steve Shannon: A Legislator, and Leader at Fairfield
By Nina M. Riccio
Like every other Fairfield student, Steve Shannon '93 spent the first weeks of December 1992 gearing up for exams and looking forward to the month-long Christmas break. But that was before Mother Nature decided to mess things up with a mid-month ice storm that flooded beach homes, downed electric wires, and swallowed student cars; the National Guard had to be called out to rescue beach residents stranded in their homes.
"This wasn't just a question of students fording through a few feet of cold water," said Shannon, who was then living at the beach with 500 other juniors and seniors. "There were power lines exposed in the water."
Fortunately for the students affected, Shannon was FUSA president. "He was so well respected and trusted, and he represented the students in a way that brought out the best in a student leader," said Jim Fitzpatrick '70, assistant vice president for student affairs, advisor to FUSA, and an acknowledged admirer of Shannon's. Because students lost books and notes, and in some cases couldn't get back into their homes for weeks, negotiating with the academic vice president over the exam schedule was a top priority. "Steve was so articulate and organized, and when he went in to see (Academic Vice President) Dr. Wall, he made it very easy for him to accept all Steve's suggestions."
For his part, Shannon maintains that the Nor'easter "was a wonderful example of the University and the greater Fairfield community coming together to deal with an unforeseen crisis. I think that it actually made the University stronger."
With his tumultuous senior year behind him, Shannon could be forgiven for taking it a little easy that summer; instead, he opted for a year of teaching English in Hiroshima.
"I was an Asian Studies minor," he explained. In the years since, he earned a master's degree in public policy from Georgetown, a law degree from the University of Virginia, and worked as a local prosecutor in Fairfax County, Virginia. In 2003, he won a seat as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. "My time at Fairfield really cemented my desire to be in public service, and if there's one thing I learned from Fairfield it's that there's always an opportunity to serve in some capacity."
One of Shannon's initiatives in his time in the House has been to bring the AMBER Alert system to Virginia. "My wife Abby worked with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and had heard about the AMBER Alert (a broadcast system to alert the police and public when a child is missing) when it was first developed in Texas. It took two years, but we were able to create the first AMBER Alert program in Virginia," he said proudly.
"One thing about politics is that people are constantly popping into your life," Shannon continued. "When I won the election, one of the first people to call me was Dr. John Orman, my former faculty advisor, who called to say how proud he was. There were so many people from Fairfield who really affected me - Dr. Alan Katz was influential in my desire to go into public policy. I went on a mission trip to Jamaica with Fr. Michael Boughton and did the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises with Fr. Paul Carrier. Through my time as FUSA president, I developed a great friendship with Fr. Aloysius Kelley. Jim Fitzpatrick was a true mentor, and Jeanne DiMuzio's commitment to helping students mature through their involvement with student activities was exceptional."
Now, after six years in the House of Delegates, Shannon is ready for a new challenge: He's running for attorney general this November. "Fairfield is a really special place and the lessons I learned there have stuck with me. It's had a profound influence on my life, and I try to serve the community as I did at Fairfield."