A startup veteran and newfound Kansas City icon has been named Kansas Citian of the Year.
John Sherman, controlling owner of the Kansas City Royals and founder of LPG Services Group and Inergy L.P., was surprised with the honor Tuesday night during the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s 134th annual dinner.
“I was having a relaxing evening until just now,” Sherman joked as he took the stage, humbly gathering his thoughts and attempting to shift the spotlight back to past recipients of the award, which include the likes of Ewing Kauffman; Buck O’Neil; Lamar Hunt; Don Hall, Jr.; Anita Gorman; Lucile Bluford; Congressman Emanuel Cleaver; Mayors Kay Barnes and Carol Marinovich; and Jim and Virginia Stowers.
“It’s hard to process being added to that list,” Sherman told the crowd.
The award is bestowed upon Kansas Citians who’ve made civic contributions or achievements that reflect insight, creativity and consciousness that can sustain an urban community. It is regarded by many as the most significant honor a Kansas Citian can receive from any local organization, the Chamber explained.
Sherman gained widespread notoriety in fall 2020 when he led a collaborative effort to purchase the Kansas City Royals in hopes of reinvigorating the major league baseball team and its potential to inspire regional success.
But his contributions to the community also include involvement in Teach for America and with the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, the UMKC Foundation, the National World War I Museum, Truman Presidential Library and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
“I’ve known John for over a decade. And when I first met him, I thought about him being a very thoughtful, curious, and a humble servant leader,” said Wendy Guillies, president and CEO of the Kauffman Foundation, noting in a video presentation that Sherman has been a steady force on the Kauffman board.
Sherman and his wife, Marny in 2006 founded the Sherman Family Foundation — an education-focused initiative that works to create opportunity for youth in underserved Kansas City communities. The foundation funded the launch of the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Urban Education Research Center.
“We work on big things, and sometimes big things look like little things, but they really are big,” Sherman said, remarking on the collective work and good represented by the civic leaders gathered for the Chamber’s event. “A lot of people who built this city, and a lot of people in this room are really trying to fight predictable outcomes. Where you end up should not be dictated by where you start, whether it’s race, gender, class or whatever. We’re making progress toward creating more opportunities for people, but we still have work to do.”
The dinner — themed “Kansas City for All” — was an especially appropriate time and place to honor Sherman, noted Joe Reardon, president and CEO of the Chamber, drawing additional parallels to another local icon committed to philanthropy and equity: Ewing Kauffman, the business leader who brought the Royals to Kansas City and became the namesake of one of the region’s leading foundations.
Even this fall’s headlines about Sherman’s willingness to explore the possibility of a downtown baseball stadium for the World Series champions reflected the Kansas Citian of the Year’s commitment to intentional, once-in-a-generation transformation, Reardon said.
“The Royals, led by John Sherman, are doing the necessary due diligence in looking at the options of this project,” he said. “Importantly, John says, if it happens, it will have to do great things for Kansas City — including economic growth and activity — but also in terms of ‘a positive impact in the quality of life for our citizens in Kansas City with a particular focus on those underrepresented parts of our community.’ That’s the kind of thing that gets all of us excited.”
Tuesday’s event also welcomed Ramin Cherafat, its newly-elected chair and CEO of McCownGordon Construction; Carolyn Watley, outgoing chair; keynote speaker Davyeon Ross, founder of DDSports, also known as ShotTracker; Kalen Allen, local entertainer and frequent guest on “The Ellen Degeneres Show”; and Casi Joy, recording artist, Kansas City native, and past contestant on NBC’s “The Voice.”
Editor’s note: The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a financial supporter of Startland News, and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce is a community partner, though this report was produced independently by Startland News’ nonprofit newsroom.