Don't Stop, Don't Drop

Goeckner Family
pictured above: Shaun goeckner and his wife, florisa, with children patrick and audrey.

Spend a few minutes with Shaun Goeckner and you’ll come away with a smile, and probably a pint of his latest craft beer.

Charming and witty with white hair and a matching Van Dyke beard, Shaun is the co-owner of a brewery and home brew supply store in Brandon, FL. On any given day, you can find him behind the bar, chatting guests up on the finer details of brewing or during quiet moments, pulling out a book to read.

“Reading is what has gotten me through life,” he says. “I’ve probably read over a thousand books. Not bad for a high school dropout, right?”

Shaun working at his brewery. 

He shares this with ease now, but until very recently it was information he withheld – from his kids, at least. It wasn’t until his oldest graduated from college that he told his children the truth about his lack of a formal education.

“Education is so important to success,” Shaun says. “I didn’t want my kids to even know there was another way because for most people there isn’t. I’m the exception to that rule.”

Shaun has gone far beyond his humble roots, growing up in the rural mountains of California to become the self-made man and entrepreneur he is today. In 2005, he founded a successful tech firm and in 2016, he took his passion for brewing pro with the acquisition of the home brew supply store and the establishment of the Brandon-based brewery.  

The journey wasn’t easy, but Shaun is a firm believer in the power of hard work and perseverance - traits he has worked to instilled in his children too.

So when his daughter, Audrey, was denied admittance to the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, he encouraged her to keep trying. She decided to write a letter of appeal, describing the challenges she faced in high school and why she deserved to attend USF.

“I was so discouraged,” said Audrey. “But I wrote the letter to explain that I had been under a lot of stress which affected my grades. I lost my granddad to a brain tumor and my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a very hard time for my family.”

Audrey at her graduation ceremony.

Much to her surprise, the admissions council agreed to give her a second chance and admit her into the university. At USFSP, Audrey flourished. She immersed herself in college life – joining clubs, volunteering and completing two professional internships to gain experience critical to her major. In the summer of 2017, Audrey graduated with dual bachelor degrees in environmental science and anthropology.

Inspired by those who never stopped believing in his daughter’s ability to graduate, Shaun is now giving the gift back to other students at USF through the Don’t Stop, Don’t Drop (DSDD) initiative. DSDD is a fund that helps students overcome financial barriers in order to finish their degree.

“These are kids who get so close to graduation, exhaust their student aid, and don’t have the opportunity or means to continue,” Shaun said. “What if the cure for cancer is locked up in that kid’s head and all he needs is a couple bucks to finish school? I want to help these students who don’t have other resources reach their full potential.”

The man who once stopped and dropped is determined to help today’s students strive and thrive.

“They say, ‘you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover,’” said the passionate reader. “Well that is doubly true for people. You have to get past the first chapter to really see what they are capable of achieving.”


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