For the past 17 years, Shannon York represented the best of Internews. Shannon and Internews found each other in December 1999, when he was hired as employee number three in our new and growing Washington, DC office. Shannon came to us with a freshly-minted MA in Political Science and as a certified Fender guitar repairman. It turned out to be a magical combination, and he quickly became master of all things Internews – from putting desks together with the simplest of tools, to navigating complicated spreadsheets to making sure we could squeeze the most out of a budget to advance our mission.
As the years unrolled, Shannon served in many different positions at Internews, imbuing each with his signature grace, determination and humor. From his first years as an executive assistant, Shannon grew through many positions with us, to become a Business Manager for Asia, and Acting Country Director for Afghanistan and, in his final years, as the wise and knowledgeable Director of Business & Operations for the Asia and Europe and Eurasia portfolios. For 17 years, he travelled the world, advancing our cause in his own quiet way, but is probably best known for his tireless service to our programs in Afghanistan – we estimate that he spent nearly two years of his tenure at Internews in Kabul.
Kabul is a long way from Shannon’s hometown of Jackson, Tennessee, 70 miles outside of Memphis. As a true son of Tennessee, music flowed deep in Shannon, as did an abiding love for Elvis, rock ‘n roll, bluegrass, jazz and the blues. In Jackson, Shannon worked as a professional musician and a manager for an instrument store before setting out to do post-undergraduate work at Oxford University. At the time, the jump from Jackson to Oxford must have felt like a big step. It would turn out to be simply one big step of many, as Shannon tirelessly crossed the globe to manage programs, budgets and design strategies in some of the furthest corners of Asia.
Shannon was the embodiment of Internews’ core values. By listening and learning continuously and bringing optimism and excitement to our work, he helped build the Internews community that opened its arms to all of us over time. His infectious generosity meant that Shannon was well known beyond the regions he supported. He made it his business to ensure that all visitors to the DC office had a personalized tour of his adopted city. From incredible walking tours to the occasional baseball game to see his beloved Nationals, Shannon ensured that a visit to Internews in DC was more than simply a business trip. When you were with Shannon, you were with family.
If there’s one thing that we all learned from Shannon, it was that adversity can be overcome with teamwork, open communication, integrity and persistence. Whether it was a looming deadline, or a seemingly intractable human resource, or just about any other challenge, Shannon was always calm and cool as he forged a positive path for our team, our organization.
Shannon was a man of deep passions. He was not only a masterful musician, but a master of musical knowledge that spanned generations and genres. He was a budget magician, an avid sports fan, a sarcastic comedian, and a trusted consiglieri.
Shannon passed away on Friday, April 14th, in Washington, DC from heart complications. He is deeply missed.
In Shannon’s memory, we have established the Shannon York Media Response Fund for Asia & Eurasia, designed to support innovative opportunities or emergency response support to Internews partners and local staff from across the regions he loved and supported with such care. Donations in his memory can be made by going to our donation page and entering “Shannon York Fund” in the Additional Information field.