BHSU alum, Michael Shann, to receive honorary doctorate at spring commencement; give convocation

Author: BHSU Communications/Friday, April 24, 2015/Categories: 2015









           Black Hills State University alum Michael Shann will receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service during BHSU&rsquos commencement ceremony on May 9. Shann has an impressive resume in the entertainment industry, which includes producing the Closing Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Shann will give a convocation at 1:30 p.m. May 8 in Clare &amp Josef Meier Hall on campus. The public is invited to attend and hear about Shann&rsquos experience in the entertainment industry.




Michael Shann knows how to put on a celebration.

Whether it&rsquos the Olympic closing ceremony, a movie premiere, athletic event or an executive leadership conference the Black Hills State University alum knows how to make a lasting impression. Now, it&rsquos Shann&rsquos turn to be honored. He&rsquoll be presented with an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree during BHSU&rsquos commencement ceremony May 9.

Shann will share some of his unique experiences at a convocation at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, May 8 in Meier Hall. The public is invited to hear details about his career, which include producing shows for an international stage.

Shann&rsquos worked with major sporting organizations and built a network of clients, associates and colleagues over the years. He&rsquos produced shows in more than 34 countries on continents including North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. He&rsquos worked with top officials in the United States including former President George W. Bush, President Barack Obama (then Senator) and international Presidents in the Philippines, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Jordan and Israel.

Shann&rsquos work focuses on what he calls "all the hoopla," creating large-scale events that surround sporting activities, movie premieres, conferences and educational programs.

"The University is pleased to be able to offer the 2015 Honorary Doctorate to Mr. Shann. His work with the most recent Olympics and upcoming Pan Am games is exceptional and has made a significant impact on an international scale," said Dr. Rod Custer, provost and vice president of academic affairs at BHSU. "This honor recognizes major achievements on his part and also recognizes BHSU as the educational foundation for his successful career."

Shann was selected for this prestigious honor due to his outstanding career. Shann has built a resume overflowing with esteemed achievements in the entertainment industry, including leading the production of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games Closing Ceremony.

"It&rsquos very special for me to be honored," Shann said. "I&rsquom flattered and a bit humbled. This has taken me by surprise and I&rsquom happy to come and support the school during this special occasion."

Shann graduated from BHSU in 1970 with a degree in education with a drama and history emphasis. After teaching at Rapid City Central High School for a year, Shann earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in stage directing from Florida State University. Shann pursued a career in theater, traveling the country as a professional stage manager for plays and musicals.

His big break came in 1978, when he answered an ad for a job opportunity with The Walt Disney Company. He got it and started a 23-year career with the internationally-known company. Over the years Shann moved up the ladder, eventually graduating from stage manager to becoming the director of entertainment development for Walt Disney Creative Entertainment. He&rsquos produced movie premieres, international Disney promotional tours, oversaw and led teams of creative directors and produced the company&rsquos annual Analysts&rsquo Conference.  

"If you continue to achieve your goals, and do well, people will give you many opportunities," Shann said. "Walt Disney is where I got great exposure to live entertainment including stadium events."

After leaving his career with Disney, Shann began producing events for conventions and conferences around the world and eventually started his own freelance company, Theatrix, in 2009. When he&rsquos not traveling for work, he works from his Minneapolis home.

Shann said his connections through Disney coupled with experience over the years is what gave him such extraordinary opportunities in the entertainment industry.

"After having done this for more than 30 years, building my confidence and tackling a new challenge in a new country is always exciting," Shann said.

A milestone in his career was producing the Closing Ceremony for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Shann spent six months in Russia to produce the ceremony, which included 3,500 performers, colorful fireworks, and elaborate scenery.

After one month of recovering from the Winter Olympics, Shann began working on one of his current projects, the Pan American Games Closing Ceremony and Para Pan Am Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies in Toronto, Ontario Canada. The Pan American Games is a precursor to the Olympic Games, Shann said. Athletes from 41 of the Pan American countries will gather to compete in July and August of this year.

"These particular shows are the biggest of their kind in the world," Shann said. "It&rsquos exciting. This is a culmination of a career."

Shann&rsquos work as an event producer is different than the rest of the entertainment industry, he said, because his performances are a quick, one-time event.

"My work isn&rsquot like a concert or a play that is put on multiple times. My work is designed and implemented to not repeat itself," he said. "I spend two years on a project and it happens just once."

As for future projects, Shann said he will be working on an event in the U.S. that is on the same scale to the Pan American Games. He is also producing "Disenchanted" through his theater company Casting Spells Productions in Minneapolis.

His busy schedule keeps him motivated and creative, he said.

"For me, it keeps me fresh not having one project but multiple projects at once," Shann said. "You learn to take really good notes."

Shann, who began a teaching career out of college, said his career goals have changed over the years, and he hopes future graduates accept that change will inevitably happen.

"Have a goal, but be comfortable with the fact your goal might change directions," Shann said. "I thought I&rsquod be creating magic on a Broadway stage, but instead I&rsquom doing it through a different avenue &ndash but I&rsquom still making magic."

Although Shann has traveled the world and lived in exotic locations, including Japan, he still looks upon Spearfish and the Black Hills fondly.

"BHSU is such a special place," Shann said. "There was much opportunity to learn and be hands-on."

Shann relates his international work to the work he&rsquos done on campus.

"It&rsquos the same feeling you have when you watch a play on the (BHSU) Woodburn Stage that you&rsquove worked on - just a little bit bigger. You want it to all go right, and you want the audience to like it."

Shann has returned to campus several times as a guest lecturer in the theater department and as a director for a theater show in 2012.

Shann left BHSU with a degree and an education, but there&rsquos one thing he said students at BHSU will gain and it&rsquos the key to a successful career.

"I came away with a lot of confidence. That&rsquos key," Shann said. "You should be able to come away with some knowledge and expertise, but above all the confidence to take on what it is you want to do, whether that be teaching, the entertainment business or science. Know that you can put yourself out there and succeed."

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