When Giving Gives Back
Henry Shane receives Jefferson Community Foundation’s inaugural Jefferson First Philanthropy Award
What began simply as the beautification of Jefferson Parish’s parks, roadways and neutral grounds has matured into a 53-year, award-winning philanthropic career for William Henry Shane Jr. Late this past October, Shane was honored by the Jefferson Community Foundation with its inaugural Jefferson First Philanthropy Award – an award which recognizes an individual who has made significant strides in improving the Jefferson Parish community by way of philanthropic giving, service, dedication and actions.
A native New Orleanian, Shane attended De La Salle High School and graduated from Tulane University where he earned a Master of Architecture. Co-founding the architecture firm Favrot & Shane soon after graduating, Shane has since made a name for himself in the Louisiana business arena as one of the state’s largest owners of multi-family residential real estate – about 9,500 apartment units to be exact. Though Shane’s entrepreneurship and real estate portfolio are by all means impressive, his long-standing commitment to bettering his community can be felt in almost all facets of parish life.
“In the early years I was involved in the beautification of Jefferson Parish’s roadsides and later served on the Foundation Board of Lafreniere Park. I took part in its concept and planning, even planting trees and paving pathways,” Shane said.
Following the collapse of the oil industry in 1983, Shane, who has called Jefferson Parish home for decades, witnessed firsthand the relocation of the local oil industry and its related jobs. Without a Jefferson Parish chamber of commerce at the time, Shane along with a group of his counterparts spearheaded the formation of Jefferson Edge, a committee that would later be known as Jefferson Economic Development Commission (JEDCO).
“JEDCO set up a relationship between elected officials and the business community that hadn’t previously existed in Jefferson Parish, and it still continues today,” Shane said. “After forming JEDCO we began thinking, ‘Could we do something similar on a broader scale for the greater community?’”
Soon after, Shane became one of three founding members of Greater New Orleans Inc. – an economic development alliance that serves the region of Southeast Louisiana’s 10 parishes to this day. His motivation to uplift Jefferson Parish unceasing, Shane played an integral role in the founding of Jefferson Community Foundation.
While Shane’s philanthropic interests had been gravitating towards economic development, he found the lack of quality public schools in Kenner at the time a contributing factor in population decreases. Spotting an opportunity to reform access to quality public education while cultivating the next generation of Jefferson Parish healthcare workers, Shane and a group of friends established Kenner Discovery Health Science Academy in 2013.
“We knew forming and operating a free, open enrollment charter school for the city of Kenner wouldn’t educate every child, but we hoped the rest of Kenner’s public schools would rise to the occasion, and they have,” said Shane.
“I want to leave Jefferson Parish a better place than when I first began here.”
Shane has remained steadfast in his beautification efforts over the years by donating countless works of art to the community – the most notable of which being the beloved “Blue Dog” sculpture on Veterans Memorial Boulevard. Beyond improving Jefferson Parish’s academic, artistic and economic standings, he and his wife Pat host a myriad of charitable events, are involved in countless social and cultural contributions and offer Shane’s “Cars of Yesteryear” venue as a charitable event space.
The award’s voting process excluded the Jefferson Community Foundation’s board, which Shane sits on, and instead enlisted various agencies and organizations from around the parish to cast their votes. While Shane was immensely honored by the recognition, his community-minded nature couldn’t help but shine through.
“I could give you a litany of people who have done unbelievably great things for the parish,” said Shane. “I look forward to seeing these civic leaders recognized in the future for their notable work.”
Shane’s contributions to Jefferson Parish represent a comprehensive approach to philanthropy. Over the years, he has managed to make tangible improvements in the parish’s beauty, economy, education, arts and its culture. Though he’s taken many routes to benefit his community, and oftentimes paved them himself, his motivation for doing so has been unwavering since day one.
“I want to leave Jefferson Parish a better place than when I first began here,” said Shane. “A lot of the progress that’s made was born out of necessity, but it resulted in a team effort mentality that allows us to make changes and solve problems faster.”