Union Club Builds on the Past

As president, Randell McShepard leads a place that sees a healthy future built on progress of the past.

Almost two years ago, when the announcement was made that Randell McShepard would be named president of Union Club of Cleveland, congratulatory messages poured in.

are his or her story with the first African-American president of the club, which opened in 1872. It wasn’t until 1982/1983 that African-Americans and women were allowed to join the club. So McShepard’s election to the presidency on May 28, 2015, created a buzz.

“Everyone wanted to tell me their Union Club story, whether it was a female, a Jewish person or a person of a minority group,” McShepard says. “Everyone just had their story of how they felt — that they were sort of not included in the Union Club or how they felt uncomfortable at the Union Club, so I think me being president certainly sends the signal that it’s an all-inclusive place. The water is safe, and I can say that the members here love the club and want to see the club do well.”

“I don’t think they are concerned about the color of the president,” she adds. “They just want the club to do well.”

As the end of his two-year term approaches in May, it appears McShepard’s vision of a successful, all-inclusive, relevant club has come to fruition. The club (an $8 million nonprofit organization with 80 employees) is the only one in Ohio on the 2016-2018 Top 50 Platinum City Clubs list. Nationally, Union Club of Cleveland is ranked in the top 5 percent of all private clubs. 

“The night I was inducted, I told the members it wasn’t really about me,” McShepard recalls. “I told them it’s about the club because I’ll do my two years, and I’ll move on. The club is 145 years old, so there’s a lot more to do and a lot more leadership the club will need.”

Along with McShepard’s leadership, the club has evolved under General Manager Lawrence McFadden, who was hired in June 2015. The duo agree on many aspects of maintaining a thriving club for its nearly 1,000 members. Attention is paid to small details, such as polishing silverware and buffing floors, and to larger endeavors, such as combining the membership and retention committees to engage new and veteran members. 

“Time is the new currency for the luxury customer,” McFadden says. “Our goal is to make things easier for our members. We don’t want them
to spend time on things they don’t want to do.”

Last year, activities in which many Clevelanders found time to engage included the Republican National Convention, the Cleveland Cavaliers championship run and the Cleveland Indians World Series berth. According to McFadden, the Union Club benefited in many ways from the excitement the events generated downtown.

“No matter what is happening in the ever-changing downtown landscape, the Union Club is a steady beacon of opportunity and progress,” McFadden says. “Looking back on what will be my two years, that’s something I’ll always be fond of — being in the center of many events in Cleveland that have benefited our city and our members.”   

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