When former Saint Mary’s President Brother Mel Anderson first met Elaine McKeon, who passed away earlier this year at age 86, she was the shy, retiring wife of George McKeon, a construction company executive and major College donor. After she lost her husband, who died at age 51, Elaine transformed her life and became one of the most remarkable people Brother Mel has ever known. Elaine McKeon served on Saint Mary’s Board of Trustees from 1980 to 1990 and was chair of the board from 1983 to 1985. In 1996 she was chosen to help chart the College’s future as a New Century Committee member.
Brother Mel sang the praises of Elaine’s distinguished service as chair of the Saint Mary’s Board of Trustees. “She was always upbeat, but firm, and knew how to get things done,” he said. “She didn’t rush to make judgments, but was very thoughtful about what she did.” She cared deeply about everyone and on one occasion hosted a surprise party at her Hillsborough home for Brother Mel’s 25th anniversary as SMC president. On another, she invited the entire basketball team to celebrate their success at a sport of which she and George, the owner of the Sacramento Kings, were very fond. Although neither of them attended Saint Mary’s — George’s older brother did, but he was killed in Europe in World War II — the McKeons became some of the school’s most generous donors, funding many projects, including McKeon Pavilion.
Elaine’s other passion, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, consumed nearly three decades of her life. She served as board president from 1989 to 1995 and chair of the board from 1995 to 2004, guiding the institution during a major move and expansion. The museum closed early one afternoon in January so her friends and family could honor a woman who touched the lives of everyone she met.