The words “chief executive” and “horticulture” are not words often found in close association. On the surface, the terms couldn’t be further apart in terms of practicality.
Unless, that is, you happen to be Tom McKeon. In the case of Tulsa Community College’s president, a horticulture background comes in handy. After all, McKeon is in the business of growing success.
McKeon’s association with one of northeast Oklahoma’s most recognized educational institutions spans more than 30 years, serving in his current capacity since 2004. During that time, McKeon has seen the institution transform itself from the former Tulsa Junior College into one of the most cutting-edge community colleges in the nation.
And it is the “community” in TCC’s name that drives him as the institution’s president. “The community looks to TCC many times as a community resource,” McKeon says. “That’s been a part of our culture from the very beginning.”
Despite steadily increasing enrollment and a four-campus system, McKeon enthusiastically points to TCC’s relentless outreach to the region’s students, both current and future. With a view toward expanding affordable post-high school education opportunities to a broader spectrum of prospective students, McKeon was a driving force in TCC’s groundbreaking Tulsa Achieves program. The program provides a very affordable option to high school graduates demonstrating a desire to pursue successful post-high school academics. “If you have a 2.0 grade point average or higher,” McKeon says, “we provide 63 college credits at no cost.” Keeping the community emphasis, Tulsa Achieves requires participants to perform 40 hours of community service each academic year. “(Tulsa Achieves) is an acknowledgement that students need some post-secondary education to succeed,” McKeon says.
McKeon’s dedication to TCC students’ success does not end once a student begins classes. Under his leadership, TCC has implemented a program known as Achieving The Dream. The national program is designed to foster community college student success and increase graduation rates.
McKeon points to Achieving The Dream as one of TCC’s greatest success stories during his tenure. “It has truly changed how we work to improve our students’ success,” he says. “To me, that is truly exciting.”
In addition to TCC’s people-oriented doctrine, McKeon’s tenure as president has also seen the college’s infrastructure take a giant leap forward with the construction of the Metro Campus’s Center for Creativity. Serving as TCC’s epicenter for media, visual arts, communications, and distance learning programs, the glitzy building is home to a broad, outdoor rooftop featuring a self-sustaining “green” area, in addition to providing students with access to up-to-the-second technology.
With the future looking bright for TCC, McKeon is eager to translate TCC’s success and vision to all levels of the educational process. “I really see the college being a real leader in education from pre-kindergarten through college and beyond,” he says. “We’re facing some real challenges in secondary education.” McKeon adds that concurrent enrollment arrangements between TCC and area high schools provide access to additional educational opportunities that might not otherwise exist.
Over the course of a conversation with McKeon, it is easy for even the most casual observer to catch his contagious enthusiasm. “I think a lot of that excitement is derived from our successes and outcomes,” he says. “And that has been significant.”