Bronx Native John McMahon ’73 Leads Urban Youth Programming

The Manhattan College alumnus has served as a longtime board member at the Fresh Air Fund.

Born and raised in the Bronx, John McMahon always was fascinated by urban life. It’s what led him to a 34-year career at Con Edison and now, the position of chief executive officer at Long Island Power Authority. It’s also what led him to serve The Fresh Air Fund, a not-for-profit agency that has provided free summer experiences in the country to more than 1.8 million New York City children from low-income communities since 1877. McMahon has served as a board member since 2004.

“Con Edison is a company that serves the needs of the public. Its leadership continuously encouraged community involvement, to make a difference beyond our daily work,” McMahon said about how his professional experience guided him to give back. “I had De La Salle Christian Brothers in grammar school so the idea of helping young people, whether in The Fresh Air Fund, CYO basketball or Little League, was part of my early DNA.”

After graduating from Manhattan College with a double major in government and urban studies, McMahon went to New York Law School to earn his law degree. Shortly after, he joined Con Edison, which was building a regulatory team to address changes in energy. At Con Edison, he collaborated with a number of Manhattan alumni on different projects to maintain a strong utility system for the greater New York City area.

During his long career there, McMahon was general counsel and CEO for Orange and Rockland County Utilities and executive vice president for Con Edison. “Con Edison’s former CEO Gene McGrath ’63 was a great leader and I was one of hundreds who benefited from his guidance and trust,” McMahon recalls. He also cites Bill Harkins ’69, Jed Deegan ’58, Donal McCarthy ’55, Frank Delea ’63 and George Delaney ’57 as role models and mentors that helped shape his career path.

Helping City Kids Find Fresh Air

While his fellow Jaspers guided McMahon toward leadership positions at Con Edison, they also helped steer him toward a leadership position within The Fresh Air Fund, where he became the chair of their audit committee. In that role, McMahon uses his legal background to oversee the nonprofit’s accounting functions. McMahon and his wife, Cathy, also serve as sponsors for The Fresh Air Fund’s annual benefit dinner.

“John is a terrific board member,” says Jenny Morgenthau, executive director of The Fresh Air Fund. “He is very passionate about it. In leading the audit committee, John is very meticulous and helpful in what he does. He and his sons also ran in the New York City Half Marathon that we sponsored.”

Not only does The Fresh Air Fund provide opportunities for city children to get away for the summer, it provides a full-scale experience for children who are involved in the program.

“It is an educational experience in the broadest sense,” says Morgenthau. “They get to see things they never saw before and make new friends.”

Nearly 9,000 New York City children enjoy free Fresh Air Fund programs annually. Each summer, approximately 4,000 children visit volunteer host families in rural, suburban and small town communities across 13 states from Virginia to Maine to Canada. 3,000 children also attend five Fresh Air camps in the summer on a 2,300-acre site in Fishkill, N.Y., an hour north of New York City, and nearly 2,000 young people participate in year-round educational programs at camp and in New York City.

Activities range from swimming and camping to after-school programming that focuses on tutoring, mentoring and learning about careers. Children have the opportunity to attend college nights and learn more about where an education can take them.

“I was not fortunate enough to have been a Fresh Air kid. My older brother was and I know it was one of the most important experiences of his life,” McMahon says. “I wish every kid in New York City could be a Fresh Air Fund kid.”

By Pete McHugh