April 4, 2007
ATLANTA–John McKenna, a long-time Georgia Tech athletics administrator under Bobby Dodd, died Saturday at his home in Decatur at the age of 92.
McKenna served the Georgia Tech Athletic Association from 1966-79. When he originally joined the Tech staff on July 1, 1972, his initial responsibilities included assistant athletics director, head of physical training, director of intramurals and head freshman football coach. He was promoted to Associate Director of Athletics in 1972.
Before coming to Tech, McKenna was a highly successful football coach, highlighted by 13 years (1953-65) as the head coach at Virginia Military Institute. A three-time selection as Southern Conference Coach of the Year, he led the Keydets to four conference titles and compiled a record of 62-60-8.
One of his players at VMI was Bobby Ross, and McKenna became a mentor for the future Tech head coach.
McKenna began his coaching career at Malvern (Pa.) Prep in 1946 and then served as an assistant coach at Villanova (1947-48), Loyola of California (1949-51), and VMI (1952).
Upon his retirement from Tech, McKenna said, “I’ve never tried to run a popularity contest. I was a tough coach and hopefully a strong and fair administrator. Athletics, like life, requires discipline and sacrifice.”
Born in Lawrence, Mass., on November 12, 1914, McKenna lettered three years in football at Villanova University, where he was a standout center for the Wildcats’ undefeated squad of 1937. He earned a B.A. in philosophy in 1938.
He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Eileen; daughters and sons-in-law, Kathleen M. and Matt Robbins of Tucker, Mary M. and Jim Thorne of Chamblee, Margaret M. and Ira Houck of Columbia, S.C., and sons, Stephen McKenna of Decatur and Peter and wife Beth McKenna of Decatur. He is also survived by twelve grandchildren, one sister, Mrs. Charles (Mary) Fox of Lawrence, Mass, and many nieces, nephews and former players and associates.
A funeral Mass will be celebrated on Monday, 9 April 2007, 11:00 a.m. at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, 2855 Briarcliff Road, N.E., Atlanta 30329. A reception will follow at the church. Burial will be in Lexington, Va., later this spring.
In lieu of flowers, please make contributions to The Smile Train, Catholic Relief Services, or the charity of your choice.