Philip J. McKenna, 71, president of National Council on Alcoholism


Philip J. McKenna, founder of the Employee Assistance Professionals of America and former president of the National Council on Alcoholism, died Friday of heart failure at his home in Bethany Beach, Del. He was 71.

A recovering alcoholic with 33 years of sobriety, Mr. McKenna brought sensitivity and understanding to those with similar problems.

The former longtime Joppatowne resident moved to the resort community after retiring last month from Constellation Energy Inc., a division of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. where he had been coordinator and head of the employee medical assistance program since 1974.

"He was such a compassionate gentleman who wanted us to believe and understand that alcoholism and drug addiction was an illness," said Dr. Susan Guanieri, manager of Constellation's medical department.

"He helped so many people, and anyone with a personal problem naturally knew Phil. He had such an affinity for people, and they knew and trusted him because of his integrity. He spoke outwardly that he was a recovering alcoholic.

"He welcomed them and told them that he would help them. He devoted his entire self to helping others to maintain their sobriety. He was always on call. He was available 24 hours a day."

Jan Williams, adjunct professor of psychology at Loyola College and director of Alcohol and Drug Education Support services at the North Baltimore school, said Mr. McKenna was "an early pioneer in this area in employee assistance work that helped troubled employees."

"He brought a personal commitment, energy and wisdom to his work. He was a highly competent professional who took his work seriously. He was the kind of man who willingly went the extra mile for someone in need," said Mr. Williams, a friend for 22 years.

He described Mr. McKenna as a "quiet and very humble man" who was "articulate, influential and knew what he was talking about."

"The best way to describe Phil McKenna is to say that he was a capable man who cared about people," said Bob Miller, a recovering alcoholic for more than 50 years who recently retired as program director for the National Council on Alcoholism. "He helped thousands through the years, and his work has greatly benefited our community."

Born and raised in Springfield, Mass., Mr. McKenna earned his bachelor's degree from Boston College in 1952. A former member and ordained priest of the Society of Jesus, he earned a master's degree in theology from Boston College in 1956.

After being laicized, Mr. McKenna was awarded a grant in 1972 at the Johns Hopkins University, where he earned a second master's degree, in health science in the employee assistance program.

In 1978, he established and was first president of Employee Assistance Professionals of America. He was a former president of the National Council on Alcoholism and a board member at the time of his death, a member of the Advisory Board of Hopkins' department of addictions and a board member of Crossroads Centers Inc.

He was a past president and board member of the former Pilot House Treatment Center for Addictions at the old Mount Wilson Hospital in Northwest Baltimore and at Damascus House in Brooklyn, a halfway house for men recovering from chemical dependence.

He won numerous awards, including the 1986 Employee Assistance Professionals of America Award and the National Council on Alcoholism's Marty Mann Award two years ago for contributions in the field of chemical dependency.

His wife of 26 years, the former Barbara Quinn, said Mr. McKenna was a "weather groupie who liked maintaining weather diaries."

He also enjoyed thoroughbred horse racing, traveling and visiting Atlantic City, N.J.

A Mass of Christian burial was offered yesterday at Holy Spirit Roman Catholic Church in Joppatowne.

In addition to his wife, Mr. McKenna is survived by a daughter, Katherine F. McKenna of Edgewood; two stepsons, Thomas Wagemann of Largo and Kurt Wagemann of Belair; four stepdaughters, Josephine Wagemann and Alberta Crowley, both of Wilmington, Del., Marie Gepfer of Mount Joy, Pa., and Olga Wagemann of Churchville; a sister, Joan Percy of Springfield, Mass.; 18 grandchildren; and nephews and nieces.


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