TU student veteran house named for WWII paratrooper

The TU student veteran house assumed a new name Friday in honor of World War II veteran and TU alum Calvin McKee.
When war broke out, McKee’s academic career was interrupted when he volunteered his military service as a paratrooper. At least some of McKee’s motivation to join the US Army came from a strong sense of patriotism and a sense that the conflict was justified. “World War II was an absolutely defensive war to protect our country. It was a totally defensive war and it was done well,” he said in the interview with the Tulsa World. “Patriotism,” he clarified, “means the obligation of every citizen to rise to the defense of their country.”
His service recently earned the Medal of Chevalier, which Grant Moak, honorary French consul for Oklahoma, says McKee deserved for his role “in liberating many southern French cities and the eventual liberation of the country itself.” After the war, McKee returned to TU and graduated with a degree in petroleum engineering, but was recalled during the Korean War. in 1956, McKee began his work at Warren Petroleum of designing and constructing gas plants, quickly being promoted to the title of chief engineer, before the company merged with Gulf Oil Corporation. For almost two decades, McKee traveled overseas, working in Gulf Oil’s gas and liquids division.
After heading impressive billion-dollar projects, McKee came back to Oklahoma in 1977, as the president of Warren Petroleum. Partially retiring in 1983, he worked as a consultant in the petroleum field until 1989.
Even though his service has earned him numerous accolades, including this most recent knighting, McKee doesn’t like talking about it.
In an interview with the Tulsa World last year, McKee, now 94, said, “There’s no romance about war … it is a bloody, degrading thing. Horrible, nasty, degrading.”
McKee didn’t choose to put his name on the building either.
Tom Russell, McKee’s longtime friend, brother-in-law and fellow TU grad, donated a large and intentionally unspecified sum to TU in McKee’s name.
The contribution created three new permanent staff positions designed to assist student veterans in navigating their college and professional careers and an endowment to fund student veteran activities.
The staff positions include an admissions recruiter, in charge of encouraging veterans to use their GI Bill at TU, a veteran’s affairs manager in charge of working with veterans to navigate their benefits and responsibilities and a career placement assistant to help veterans find work after completing their degrees. Two of the three full-time positions have been filled.
Russell was extremely satisfied with how the university allocated his donation saying, “TU got me started, so I’ve been supportive of TU ever since.”
Russell also explained why he used his donation to honor McKee.
McKee wasn’t just Russell’s brother-in-law, he was Russell’s mentor.
Russell praised McKee’s “excellent moral standards and ethics,” and said, “If there is ever anyone you want to learn from it is him.”
Student Veteran Association President Kate Tillotson shared this sentiment.
“We’re proud to have our veteran house named after a World War II veteran and community leader who not only served in war time but refuses to romanticize war,” Tillotson said. “He represents a thought leader forged from combat and that resonates so well with our generation of veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
“We serve in war but we do not glorify it. Cal McKee is one of us.” Tillotson said.
Other student veterans shared their thoughts on honoring McKee as well.
Senior Emily Harris said the group was honored to have McKee’s name associated with their organization because McKee and Russell’s friendship was one worth emulating.
“They are extremely close and we are, too. I, personally, don’t know where I would be in life without my vets,” Harris said.
Student Veteran Alexander Denard said McKee “served in this nation’s greatest conflict and I’m proud to honor his legacy.”
“To us younger military he’s a hero and it makes me happy to think about a guy like that giving us his blessing,” Denard said.

Post Author: Kayleigh Thesenvitz

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