Joseph E. McMahon ’62
B.A., Denison University
J.D., University of Michigan
Citation awarded June, 2011
Joe has applied his knowledge of the law across a broad spectrum of interests. Even while he was in private practice, he was already searching for ways to take his legal skills into areas more closely related to the give-and-take of policies and politics impacting civil rights—always his most passionate interest.
He began right out of Denison in the summer of 1962 working as a legal intern for the Civil Rights Division in the US Department of Justice, as well as the summers of 1963 and 1964; following graduation from Law School he worked as an assistant to Attorney General Edward W. Brooke of Massachusetts; following Brooke’s election as the first elected African American to the United States Senate in 1966, Joe joined the Senator’s staff. He then served as Chief of Staff to Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Frank Sargent. In 1969 Joe became Vice President of the Bedford Stuyvesant D & S/Restoration Corporation, founded by Senator Robert Kennedy as the Nation’s first community economic development corporation in the heart of Brooklyn, New York; in 1974 Joe then joined the corporate world as a Director of Washington Relations for Westinghouse Electric and then in 1978 as vice president of corporate affairs for Federated Department Stores in Cincinnati.
Joe also moved into more active election-related work with local political committees. The result of this involvement helped him earn a solid reputation as a talented strategist resulting in the Boston Republican Committee electing him as their first vice president. He was appointed by President Gerald Ford as a member of the National Council of Economic Opportunity; and, in the 1980 presidential election, Joe served as director of national business for the Reagan-Bush Election Committee. By 1981, he opened McMahon and Associates, a Washington DC consulting and research firm whose focus is public-policy / nonprofit and corporate issues.
Joe’s skills have been a valuable asset in cutting edge issues as alternative energy, organic agriculture development, microenterprise development and full respect and equality for those openly lesbian and gay as well as to those boards of directors on which he has served: vice president of the BedStuy D&S Corporation Restoration (Brooklyn, NY); executive director of The Get-Ahead Foundation/USA; End Hunger Network; Cincinnati Urban League; Luther Institute (Washington, DC); Rodale Institute, Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries and the outreach board of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. From 2001~ 2007 he has been vice president of public policy for Covenant House. He is a member of the Capitol Hill Club, a former trustee of Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary and a former Visitor at the University of Michigan Law School.
His volunteer service to Denison includes the 28 years he served on the Board of Trustees and his election to Life Trustee status in 2000, class reunion and 50th reunion committees, fundraising service for the Fellows and President’s Associates gift clubs as well as the Harris Tight Huffman Society, and supporting student interns through the McMahon Summer Internship Program.