Richard McKenna was an American sailor and author born and raised in our hometown of Mountain Home, Idaho.
He was best known for his historical novel, The Sand Pebbles which tells the story of an American sailor serving aboard a gunboat on the Chinese Yangtze River in 1926.
But to us, at Richard McKenna Charter High, he is much more than just a sailor.
Before all of his naval and literary works Richard McKenna was a native of Mountain Home and grew up in the small town during the Great Depression. It was during this time that a young Richard McKenna used his imagination to develop stories and poems that would later get him through this famous economic recession. “My early book learning came to me as naturally as the seasons in the little town in which I grew up. Quite early I began to find a special charm in an unpeopled world … of lava rock and sagebrush desert. I was often more purely happy at such times than I think I have ever been since.”
-Richard McKenna, 1972
Seeking more opportunities than could be found in such a rural part of the country at the height of the Great Depression, McKenna joined the U.S. Navy in 1931 at the age of 18. He served for 22 years, including 10 years of active sea duty. He served in both World War II and the Korean War and retired shortly afterward as a Chief Machinist's Mate. His most popular and successful novel was The Sand Pebbles where most historians agree that stories from this novel originated from McKenna’s own personal experiences.
Richard McKenna was the winner of many academic prizes including the Nebula Award for Best Short Story in 1966 and was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 1967.
However, he leaves a lasting impression beyond his writing awards. The sheer fact that Richard McKenna was known for being able to “make something out of nothing” during a time of national economic downfall shows the type of character our students need and admire the most.
This is why our students use McKenna as a model of character for our Weekly Workplace Behaviors and our PRIDE. PRIDE stands for Perseverance, Respect, Integrity, Discipline, and Effort. Richard McKenna was able to create a rich and abundant life despite his economic and geographical means, which is one of our main life lessons we wish for all students to experience and understand.