I am guessing that John McKee, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of Hawaii, Maui, is thinking about APU a lot right now. Why would he be doing that you ask?
In case you haven’t heard yet, there’s an APU alumni reunion taking place on campus later this month and from what I understand, it’s the first time ever in the history of this institution – as either Alaska Pacific University or Alaska Methodist University – that this has happened. The alumni who took the initiative to organize this event graduated from or attended APU between 1979 and 1985. McKee, who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Science in 1982 and a Master of Arts in Teaching in 1984, will be among the celebrants.
I asked McKee how he wound up at APU.
“In January of 1979, my roommate at Clark College (Vancouver, WA) moved to Palmer, Alaska. He called me and said ‘You’ve gotta come up here!’ With money from my tax return, I boarded a bus to Seattle, caught a plane to Alaska, and never looked back.”
Due to the efforts of Dr. Ray Clements, Dean of Students, between 1979 and 1985 APU boasted a large number of international students from African nations, Central Asia and the Far East, among other places. McKee’s first roommates were from Turkey and Sri Lanka and for his senior project, Mckee started a chapter of the Model United Nations in Alaska.
Two members of the APU community who had a profound influence on John McKee were faculty member and ski coach, Jim Mahaffey, and Louise Kellogg.
“Jim Mahaffey brought an environmental ethic to life for me,” he said.
McKee got to know Louise Kellogg, a champion of environmental education, when he lived for a time at Louise’s Spring Creek Farm (now the Kellogg Campus of Alaska Pacific University).
“Louise had a huge influence on me,” he said.
More than a landlord, Kellogg was McKee’s friend. She bought McKee, a long-distance runner for APU, his running uniform and fed him moose steaks to help with his training (which he admits made him feel much better).
“She had a joy that enclosed everyone around her,” he said. “APU was home for me. This was something I had never felt before. The people there became the family I didn’t have growing up. APU was the foundation in so many ways for building the person I became.”
When McKee graduated from APU, he became the Executive Director of the Musk Ox Corporation in Palmer, Alaska, a non-profit created for Alaska Natives for the purpose of agricultural development. He also served as the Business Manager of the Alaska State Fair. After he returned to the lower 48 in the early 90’s, McKee became a project director for Habitat for Humanity in Bend, Oregon. McKee, who received his doctorate in Educational Leadership from Oregon State University in 2000, has served as a dean at Clark College in Vancouver, Washington, at Portland Community College in Portland, Oregon and at University of Hawaii, Maui, where he was appointed Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs in 2010.
Along with his former classmates, we will welcome John McKee home to APU this month.