Theodore A. McKee

Theodore McKee earned a bachelor’s degree in 1969 from SUNY– Cortland and traveled a few miles south to become director of minority recruitment at SUNY–Binghamton. There, he recruited capable minority students, whose qualifications often were reflected in individual achievements as much as (if not more than) standardized exams.

Appointed to Temple’s Board of Trustees in 2002 and now serving as vice chairman of the student affairs committee, he finds similarities here.

“Temple works hard to ensure we get good students without penalizing some who may have had to work a job during high school or could not afford to take a battery of SAT preparation courses,” he said. “They are the kind of students who might not be able to compete at the same quantitative level, but they certainly can at the qualitative level.”

McKee left his minority recruiting job for law school at Syracuse University, planning on a career in community service. But when his wife opted to attend — and pay for — medical school, McKee sought higher-paying jobs in cities where she was applying. Mrs. McKee went to Hahnemann; her husband to Wolf, Block, Schorr & Solis-Cohen, the firm where he met leading lawyer Howard Gittis, now chairman of Temple’s board.

McKee held stints in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, as deputy city solicitor and as Common Pleas Court judge. In 1994, President Clinton nominated McKee to his current judgeship in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.

“This is a wonderful experience,” McKee said. “The government pays me to write and to read and to think about great issues.”

Because of that inquisitiveness and love for learning, McKee “always wanted to be involved at the board level with an institution of higher learning. In a democratic society, nothing quite rivals academic institutions for fostering the competition of ideas and for training people to engage in those ideas.

“Universities reflect society,” he added. “There is no issue in broader society — housing, labor, race — that’s not reflected in the governance of a university.”

McKee praised Temple for its diversity and “the extent to which the school is really committed to maintaining academic standards while ensuring that students who want a good, solid education, and who have demonstrated the capability of doing the work, don’t get turned away. Diversity is not about lowering standards, but about getting a more realistic assessment of potential that helps everybody — the student who has to work compared to the one who doesn’t; a poor kid compared to a wealthy kid whose home included a library. It levels the playing field for everybody.

“We need to continue to push toward academic excellence in the faculty and students we recruit without turning away students from all backgrounds who can do the work. That’s Temple’s strength, and that’s what we’re committed to doing.”

Being relatively new to Temple and working on many weekends, McKee still hopes to become more involved in Temple’s campus life. He enjoys women’s basketball and is hoping for an opportunity to introduce his daughters to coach Dawn Staley.

“That,” he said, “would be great.”

- By Mark Eyerly

2004 Temple Times