Thanks to a neighbor with a son his age, Jim McKeehan ’67 picked up his first golf club when he was 12, even though there was not a course within miles of his home in Compton, south of downtown Los Angeles. At Dominguez High School, one of McKeehan’s teachers offered to continue his training. “We had nowhere to play in Compton,” notes McKeehan, “so he took me to hit balls in a neighboring city.”
The love of the game stuck. While attending the University of Redlands, McKeehan played on the golf team for four years under Coach Lee Fulmer. “Golf at Redlands was in its infancy then,” recalls McKeehan. “It was fun for me and has been nice to see the program progress.”
An English major with an economics minor, McKeehan remembers literature classes on the Quad and fun times with Kappa Sigma Sigma fraternity brothers. He attended the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, and found Redlands prepared him well: “My classmates may have gone to better-known schools, but my educational foundation was just as good.” He served in the Army Reserves and after earning his license, practiced law for four years in the Judge Advocate General unit. In addition to his law career, McKeehan worked with Signature Properties, a home building company, and among other projects, built a golf course community in Pleasanton, California.
His wife, Deborah McKeehan, who has served in leadership positions for city manager associations around the world, has heard him speak fondly about his Redlands experience throughout their 19-year marriage. “When I visited the University with Jim, I was taken aback by how spectacular it was,” shares Deborah, who met Jim after both of them had lost their spouses to cancer; the pair cross-adopted their young daughters, Kelly and Jessica, as they merged their families. “Jim is very proud of having gone to Redlands, and has encouraged many young people to apply.”
While initially hesitant to attend his 50th reunion, at the encouragement of Dave Kramer ’67 (also a Compton native and longtime friend) McKeehan returned to campus for the first time since graduation and was impressed by its growth. In addition to connecting with classmates, McKeehan received a student-guided tour and was touched by the enthusiasm and energy of the young woman who took them around campus.
Leading up to the reunion, McKeehan had spent significant time thinking about his legacy. “When you are fortunate, you have an obligation to give back,” he reflects. “In my mind, I kept going back to Redlands because it helped me become the person I am.” With his wife’s support, he included a provision in his estate plans to establish the James W. McKeehan Endowed Scholarship, which includes a preference for students from Compton. “Those students may be unable to move forward because of a lack of resources or a lack of knowledge about what resources are available,” says McKeehan. “I thought it might be a way to help someone else get the experience I was fortunate enough to have at the University.”
For more information on how you can support scholarships like McKeehan has, please contact Gabrielle Singh, senior philanthropic advisor, at 909-748-8349 or
firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more stories from the summer issue of Och Tamale magazine.