Jerry working on a maquette (a mock-up of a sculpture) of Lou Holtz, one of the most successful college football coaches of all time.
Nestled among the live oaks near the small Texas Hill Country community of Boerne stands a converted cattle barn, the studio of Jerry McKenna. Born in Connellsville, PA, McKenna has lived in Texas for over forty years. He is proud of his Pennsylvania roots but says, "I have traveled the world over and I have yet to find a more perfect place to work. It offers beauty, peace, and sunshine for most of the year." He has the distinction of holding both U.S. and Irish citizenship and he spends part of each year in Ireland.
A former Air Force officer and decorated Vietnam veteran, his early recognition came from his bronze portraits of famous Air Force leaders such as Generals Billy Mitchell, Ira C. Eaker, and Jimmy Doolittle. His work can be found in museums, parks, churches, public buildings, universities, halls of fame, and private collections around the world. In 1987, McKenna was chosen to create the Processional Cross for the mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II in San Antonio.
Over the years he has received many awards, such as the University of Notre Dame's 1962 Emil Jacques Medal of Fine Arts and the 2001 Rev. Anthony J. Lauck Award.
One of his honors was being named the 2003 Sports Sculptor of the Year by the All-American Football Foundation in recognition of his seventeen portrait busts in the Pro Hall of Fame, his sculpture of Knute Rockne at the College Football Hall of Fame, sculptures of Charles A. Comiskey at U. S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Frank Leahy and Moose Krause at Notre Dame Stadium, Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch for the University of Wisconsin, and many others. In 2001, Mr. McKenna was awarded an Honorary ND Monogram by the Notre Dame National Monogram Club. In September 2014, the NCAA listed two of his works as the Best Sculptures in College Football: the Ara Parseghian came in at No. 5 and The Four Horsemen was No. 1.
Mr. McKenna began his formal study of art at the age of fourteen at the Gertrude Herbert School of Art in Augusta, Georgia. Later, he continued his studies at the American Academy of Art in Chicago and at the San Antonio Art Institute. He received Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Notre Dame, where he studied under Robert Leader and Dr. Stanley Sasha Sessler, and was influenced by the sculptor-in-residence, Ivan Mestrovic. He also received a Master of Arts from Webster University in 1981.
In addition to sculpture, McKenna’s other interests include reading, genealogy, Irish history, Notre Dame football, photography and spirited conversation. He is an Artist-Fellow of the American Society of Aviation Artists and a Member of the Coppini Academy of Fine Arts. Married to Gail Thomas McKenna, an author and lecturer, he has five grown children (Colleen, Michael, Patrick, Sean, and Daniel), and eight grandchildren.