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CSB and SJU community mourn the passing of Tom McKeown ’52

The College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University community mourns the passing of Tom McKeown, class of 1952.

“The Saint John’s and Saint Benedict’s community is deeply saddened by the loss of this great family man, business leader and civic servant,” said Brian J. Bruess Ph.D., the joint president of CSB and SJU. 

“Tom was a quintessential Johnnie – a true giant in our Benedictine community.”

Tom McKeown was a member of the school’s Board of Regents from 1986 through 1992, including a lengthy stint as board chair, and led a number of capital campaign committees over the years. He remained a current member of the Saint John’s University Leadership Council.

In addition, he served as president of the Twin Cities Alumni Chapter in 1964 and as the Alumni Association Board president from 1965-66. After moving to Massachusetts, he helped lead the Boston Alumni Chapter during the 1970s.

He also served on the Board of Overseers of the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, as well as the Board of Overseers of the Saint John’s School of Theology Seminary.

In 1993, he was awarded the Fr. Walter Reger Distinguished Alumnus Award, the highest honor bestowed by the SJU Alumni Association for service.

It was a fitting honor as Tom McKeown had worked for Fr. Reger as SJU’s director of university relations from 1955 to 1960 – the first lay person to have that title. 

He then went on to work in Honeywell’s ordinance division from the early 1960s through the mid-1970s before joining St. Paul Companies, primarily serving in the information systems and service area. He retired in 1997 as Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer. 

His son Dan, class of 1985, followed in his footsteps by serving on the SJU Board of Trustees from 2013 to 2022, and was named board chair himself in 2019.

Dan McKeown also received the Walter Reger Award in 2022, making he and Tom just the second father-son combination to be awarded the honor – joining Bill ’55 and Jim Sexton ’81, who received it in 2000 and 2021 respectively.

Dan paid tribute to his father in the Summer/Fall 2019 edition of the SJU Magazine.

“He is a man of great character and simple wisdoms who continues to demonstrate to his children and grandchildren the importance of helping and serving others,” Dan wrote. “He also taught us the power of listening, collaborating, the love of learning and the importance of an education.”

In 2009, the McKeown Center, a 7,500-square-foot community center located in the Flynntown area of campus, was named in his honor. The building was made possible thanks to a leadership gift commitment from members of the McKeown and Cullen families.

“I’m honored and humbled to have a building named after me, and I’m extremely proud of my kids for making this possible,” he said at the time. “I’ve had a 60-year relationship with Saint John’s. It’s been my second family. Apart from my mom, I’ve learned more from Saint John’s than anyone.”

On just the day before his passing, Tom sent an email to Saint John’s University reiterating his life-long relationship to his alma mater.

He signed that message: “Tom McKeown, 75 years as a Benedictine.”

McKeown also attended Saint John’s Prep, then went on to serve as sports editor of The Record during his time as a student at SJU.

Tom and Dan McKeown

Tom McKeown (left) and his son, Dan, each served as board chair at Saint John’s.