Autumn Commencement Speaker
Mr. Frank Shankwitz is a co-founder of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which has granted over 350,000 wishes to children all over the world since its inception in 1980.
Mr. Shankwitz, a retired 41-year veteran of law enforcement, founded the Make-A-Wish Foundation while working as part of an Arizona Highway Patrol motorcycle unit. In that role, during slack time from normal patrol duty, he visited local grade schools around the state, talking about bicycle safety and letting the children sit on his motorcycle.
In 1980, he was among the Arizona Highway Patrol officers responsible for granting the “wish” of a 7-year-old boy with leukemia who wanted to be a Highway Patrol motorcycle officer like his heroes, Ponch and Jon from the television show “CHiPS.” The boy was made the first and only honorary Arizona Highway Patrol Officer in the history of the patrol, complete with a custom made uniform, badge and Motor Officer Wings.
The boy succumbed to his illness shortly after receiving his “wish” and was the inspiration for Mr. Shankwitz to start the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which would let children with life-threatening illnesses “make a wish” and have it come true. He was a co-founder and also the first president/CEO of the foundation.
Mr. Shankwitz and the organization have received numerous awards and honors. In 2004, he received “The President’s Call To Service” award from President George W. Bush. In 2006, he received the “Making A Difference In The World” award from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. In May 2015, Mr. Shankwitz joined six U.S. presidents, as well as Nobel Prize winners and leaders of industry, as a recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.
In August 2015, he founded a new nonprofit, The Ripple Effect Foundation, and is the president/CEO and board chair of the foundation.
Mr. Shankwitz’s life story will soon be featured in an upcoming Universal Studios motion picture, "An American Hero", which is scheduled to begin filming in spring, 2016.