University of Tulsa petroleum engineering alumnus Calvin C. “Cal” McKee received the Congressional Gold Medal March 21, 2018, in Washington, D.C., for his involvement in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and its historic contributions during World War II. The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honor bestowed by the United States.
McKee joined other members of the OSS for a ceremony attended by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Known as America’s first strategic intelligence system, the OSS was organized during World War II and is considered the foundation of modern-day intelligence operations including the Central Intelligence Agency. The OSS played a key role in America’s victory, utilizing war training, supply and combat resources provided by members of the civilian population and each branch of the military.
McKee served with distinction as a combat paratrooper and master sergeant in the U.S. Army’s 18th Airborne Corps in World War II and as an Army intelligence officer during the Korean War. In August 2017, he was appointed to the rank of chevalier (knight) in the Legion of Honor by the Republic of France for his bravery and contributions to the liberation of France. Joining the French National Order of the Legion of Honor is the highest civilian honor granted by the Republic of France.
McKee graduated from TU in 1948 and began a career in gas plant design. He traveled internationally as an employee of Warren Petroleum and Gulf Oil Corp. and retired from the presidency of Warren Petroleum in 1983. He became a supporter of several 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 the Dean’s Circle.
In 2017, McKee’s brother-in-law Thomas Russell (BS ’57) and Russell’s wife, Pat, designated a major gift to TU that memorializes McKee and other U.S. service members while also supporting the talents and abilities of student veterans. The contribution created three permanent TU staff positions — one each in veteran recruitment, student veteran affairs and veteran career placement. Russell’s philanthropy in honor of McKee was announced in May 2017 as the Calvin C. McKee Endowed Funds for Student Veterans, and the TU student veterans’ house was renamed the Cal McKee Student Veterans Center.
McKee is the type of American hero, devoted alumnus and responsible Tulsan that TU is proud to celebrate. McKee was the grateful recipient of a scholarship at TU, and he hopes his story inspires others to support the university’s student veteran initiatives.
Watch video of McKee’s Congressional Gold Medal ceremony. Give to TU in honor of students and alumni who have served our nation.