Legacy: Friends Honor Memory of John Sweeney '87

Friends honor the memory of John Sweeney ’87 via a scholarship. by Terry Sweeney, John's sister

On his graduation day, John Sweeney ’87 sported red Bermuda shorts under his gown and playfully emblazoned “Florida or Bust,” atop his mortarboard. With his B.S. in business management, John was intent to start his own enterprise in the Sunshine State—where “the surf was up.”

Growing up in Penfield, New York, the youngest of three children, John passionately leapt from one adventure to another, extracting all he could from each. He won his grammar school’s spirit award for the zeal he would carry throughout his life. He had a radiant smile and positive magnetism that made people feel good, and he easily attracted many close and loyal friends. On his first day at Ithaca he bonded with a group of students in the East Tower; the “Men from Ten” stayed close long after leaving South Hill.

John’s first entrepreneurial venture was in high school, when he and a friend founded a summer business called Hard Workers. The two would happily perform any odd job asked of them. This experience taught invaluable skills in advertising, time management, and job bidding. That and his College education prepared John well to be his own boss.

After graduation he tossed a few clothes and some basic furnishings into his Volkswagen GTI, and drove to West Palm Beach, Florida. He got a job at a dive shop and met a kindred spirit who harbored similar goals and shared his passion for alternative music. After thoroughly researching the legal, technical, and financial steps, they formed a partnership, put together a comprehensive business plan, and secured financial backing  to open a music store.

In June 1989 Sound Splash was born. The store was thoroughly innovative, from concept to decoration to advertising. It catered to a niche market by carrying music that the chains didn’t, and by letting people buy and sell used CDs.

Beginning a business is risky, but John was the type of person who’d hit a brick wall and make stardust. Just a week before the grand opening, with no money for décor, he placed a small classified ad in the paper advertising a midnight painting party with free pizza and inviting the public to come help spruce up the store. About 30 people arrived to leave their creative mark with poems, footprints, and inspired artwork. The Palm Beach Post caught wind and covered the event, giving the business invaluable free advertising.

Sound Splash’s unique concept and personal touch quickly attracted a steady, loyal following. Managing carefully, John and his partner opened a second branch store just a year later.

Heartbreakingly, the visionary young man became terminally ill before he had a chance to take his next adventure. He passed away on January 27, 1992.

But his legacy is the love and friendship he inspired in so many who knew him. A friend says, “John embodied what is best in all of us, with an easy-going, friendly personality, strong values, a can-do attitude, and a desire to live life on his own terms.” Three of the “Men from Ten,” Mark Baker, Dave Lissy, and Phil Schwartz, spearheaded a successful fund-raising project for a School of Business perpetual scholarship in John’s memory; it was endowed in 1993.

To further commemorate John’s life, a plaque and a white daylily are situated next to the Muller Chapel pond on campus. The flower was specially hybridized and is officially registered as “John’s Lily.”

John Sweeney’s warmth and engaging smile remain in the hearts of all who were lucky to know him and now share their love for him with others.

1 Comment

Love you, my old friend.