Supporter Spotlight – Andrew E. Sweeny, Jr.

Three passions drive Andy Sweeny: learning, serving others, and building meaningful relationships. As a Major Gifts Officer at St. Xavier High School, he has directed these passions toward helping generations of young people learn and grow—the very same mission he advances as a supporter of OVV.

Andy was born in Cincinnati, Ohio to a family steeped in history and a sense of place. “My father’s side was essentially 100% Irish whereas my mother’s side was 100% German,” he says. He grew up in Mount Lookout where he attended Cardinal Pacelli School before entering St. Xavier (St. X).

Following high school, Andy enrolled at Xavier University (XU) as a history major. It was at XU that his love of learning began to blossom. “I came alive as a student at Xavier,” he explains. “I thoroughly enjoyed my classes and learned to think, to write, and to engage critically with the world around me.”

Andy’s zeal for education grew during his junior year when he studied abroad at the John Felice Rome Center. “If there was any experience that truly changed my life, it was my year in Rome, Italy,” he says. “It was an unbelievable opportunity to fall in love with one of the greatest cities in the world and travel throughout Europe.”  

“While in school in Rome I studied art, architecture, music, history, and Italian,” Andy continues. “I have a distinct memory of sitting in the Sistine Chapel for over four hours and listening to a professor offer a thorough analysis of that great work of art.”

Andy’s experiences at St. X, XU, and the Rome Center proved formative, instilling in him a deep appreciation for educational institutions and their capacity to change lives.

Soon after finishing his undergraduate program, Andrew returned to XU to earn his master’s in Business Administration, a degree that would serve him well first as an office manager at his father’s company, Sweeny Office Furniture and Supply Co, Inc., and later as a salesman at the J.A. Kindel and DuBois Chemical companies.

“It was a great experience to call on companies all over the city,” he says. “I will never forget when I asked one of the owners what my territory was and he said, ‘Go to the river and work north.’”

In 1986, Andrew left sales to work as an investment wholesaler. During his twenty-five years in that industry, he served hundreds of clients across the region and country. Looking back on all the miles traveled, Andy sees a clear through-line—and derives an important lesson:

“In one way or another, all my various positions have been sales roles,” he notes. “What I have learned over the years is that being a salesman is about relationships. If one builds relationships, it is much easier to ask for an order. Over time, many of the people that I have worked with or called on have become friends. I cherish all the relationships and friendships that I have developed over the years.”

Andy’s life came full circle when, in 2011, he accepted a position as a Major and Planned Gifts Officer in St. X’s Development Department. The job has granted him an opportunity to harness his sales know-how in service of a cause that’s dear to his heart: eliciting financial contributions to support future generations of learners. “It was a natural fit from the very start,” Andy says.

A few years later, Andy was introduced to yet another educational program—Ohio Valley Voices.

“I was introduced to OVV by Jack Wild,” Andy recounts. “Jack would talk about Ohio Valley Voices, but it wasn’t until he and I took a tour that I really understand what it was all about.”

The more Andy learned about the early intervention program, the more he wanted to get involved. After meeting with OVV Executive Director Maria Sentelik, he offered to help with the school’s fundraising efforts. He eventually joined the Development and Capital Campaign Committees too.

Andy Sweeny

Since becoming part of the OVV family over two years ago, Andy has introduced the program to numerous friends and colleagues, including Brian Malloy and Tom and Kathy Fischer, all of whom have been personally impacted by hearing loss. (You can read Dr. Fischer’s entire OVV story here.) An especially affecting moment came during Brian Malloy’s tour of OVV. Andy explains:

“I always sensed that there was more to OVV’s mission, but it didn’t crystallize until the end of Brian Malloy’s visit. Brian spoke about his lifelong struggle with hearing impairment and Maria described her twenty plus years in deaf education. It was their dialogue that helped me realize that Brian and the kids of OVV have to work harder than everyone else, and this in turn makes them better, stronger people.”

This insight—that Ohio Valley Voices doesn’t merely provide children with the tools necessary to listen and speak, but also cultivates in them the drive and ability to become truly exceptional—has deepened Andy’s admiration for the students enrolled in the program, and it is precisely why he continues to support them as a donor and committee member.

For a lifelong advocate of education like Andy, there is simply no better cause to get behind than Ohio Valley Voices. “In essence, the mission of OVV is to prepare its graduates for a normal school,” he reflects. “But these graduates are far from normal, they are hardworking, fully actualized human beings. How many schools, organizations, and companies can claim that kind of accomplishment?”

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