The University of Tulsa has received a major gift that pays tribute to U.S. service members while supporting the talents and abilities of student veterans. Thomas Russell (BS ’57) has established an endowment in honor of fellow TU alumnus, longtime mentor and brother-in-law Calvin C. “Cal” McKee. The contribution by Russell and his wife, Pam, creates three permanent TU staff positions — one each in veteran recruitment, student veteran affairs and veteran career placement.
As a young man, Russell took McKee’s advice and began studying chemical engineering at TU. Russell completed his bachelor’s degree and later founded two successful companies in the gas processing industry. Russell has been recognized as a TU Distinguished Alumnus and is a member of TU’s College of Engineering and Natural Sciences Hall of Fame.
“I have continued to follow Calvin’s advice for the past 50 years,” Russell said. “Following his rules made my life much easier, and I’ve passed them on to my kids and many employees with the same results.”
McKee (BS ’48) served with distinction as a combat paratrooper and master sergeant in the U.S. Army’s 18th Airborne Corps during World War II and as an Army intelligence officer during the Korean War. He received a degree in petroleum engineering and climbed the engineering ranks in gas plant design. McKee traveled internationally as an employee of Warren Petroleum and Gulf Oil Corp., retiring as president of Warren Petroleum in 1983.
He became an avid supporter of Tulsa nonprofit organizations and served as a TU trustee from 1982 to 1991. McKee is a member of the TU Chemical Engineering Advisory Board and was named a TU Distinguished Alumnus in 2014. He was inducted into TU’s College of Engineering and Natural Sciences Hall of Fame and has been active in the TU Circle Society and President’s Council.
Russell’s philanthropy in honor of McKee officially was announced at a special ceremony in May 2017 as the Calvin C. McKee Endowed Funds for Student Veterans. In recognition of McKee’s service to his country, the City of Tulsa and the university, TU President Gerard Clancy delivered two proclamations declaring May 5, 2017, “Calvin C. McKee Day” in Tulsa by Mayor G.T. Bynum and “Calvin C. McKee Veterans’ Leadership Day” in Oklahoma by Gov. Mary Fallin. Clancy also announced the renaming of TU’s student veterans’ house to the Cal McKee Student Veterans’ Center.
More than 80 veterans currently attend TU and are active in its growing Student Veterans Association. Kate Tillotson (BS ’17), who served in the U.S. Marine Corps, was named SVA 2017 National Student Veteran of the Year.
“Student veterans bring so much to the table in terms of experience, intellect and leadership,” she said. “We come to college with many life-altering experiences and continue to serve on our campus, in our community and wherever we are placed.”
Clancy, who served in the U.S. Air Force, is one of only two military veterans currently serving as presidents at national universities. Clancy’s Air Force job titles have included base psychiatrist, flight surgeon and Ellsworth Base Assistant Surgeon General. He thanked Russell and McKee for their dedication to their country and their support of the university.
Learn more about student veterans at TU and the admission process.