Twenty-three years and eight months ago, a young widow with a houseful of rambunctious children and a new college degree knocked on our door and helped us make one of our very best decisions. She persuaded us that day to hire her, marking the first among hundreds of instances of us being glad we took her advice. My only disagreement with Kendra Shrode now is her decision to retire at the end of November.
As I told our staff in an email announcing her retirement, in the early days Kendra answered every phone call, greeted every guest, and opened every piece of mail. Her responsibilities grew with our size and influence. Kendra developed and executed sound financial and operational procedures, helped hire and develop new staff, became a trusted friend to dozens of our most faithful supporters, organized events, coordinated travel and board meetings, executed mailings, and became an organizational leader known throughout our movement. She has been our foremost storehouse of institutional memory. Kendra met every large and small task with competence and professionalism.
Usually behind the spotlight rather than in its glow, she worked to help others achieve more. Few may know that she volunteered to forgo pay and even loan the Mackinac Center money to keep things going through some dry times in our earlier years. If I could say only one word about Kendra, it would be “loyal.”
In many ways Kendra has been the glue that holds us together. Elsewhere I’ve likened team members to stones in a great cathedral. Some stones are assigned high and lofty places. Others, even out of view, support other stones. But between them all is the mortar that binds them one to another, without which no stone can serve its purpose.
If we took the full measure of the mortar between all the stones, we would probably find it greater than the measure of the grandest stone in the most visible place. And so it has been with Kendra Shrode.