Dr. Mike McKinney, flanked by Pasadena ISD Superintendent Dr. Kirk Lewis and School Board Vice President Marshall Kendrick, poses next to a mockup of his Distinguished Alumnus plaque, to be placed on permanent display outside the Administration Building.
A&M Chancellor Lauded as Gifted, Versatile Public Servant
Dozens of family members, friends and Pasadena ISD officials Tuesday night convincingly shattered an old assumption subscribed to by the evening's guest of honor. "A person who can do a lot of things," advised Dr. Michael McKinney, "probably isn't good at any of them."
In a ceremony that was touching, frequently hilarious and, from beginning-to-end, a tribute to the value of education, Dr. McKinney was treated to volumes of testimony that he is, indeed, a master of many things.
A country doctor, a state legislator, a confidant to two Texas governors - one a future president - and currently the chancellor of one of the world's largest university systems, Dr. McKinney received effusive praise as he was honored as the Pasadena ISD's Distinguished Alumnus for 2011.
Pasadena ISD Superintendent Dr. Kirk Lewis likened Dr. McKinney, the chancellor of the Texas A&M University System, to "a Renaissance man."
"Dr. McKinney truly ranks as one of the most talented, most versatile and most dedicated public servants of his generation," Dr. Lewis said. "It is no exaggeration to say that he ranks among our state's most gifted leaders of the past quarter-century."
"It's good to be home," Dr. McKinney said, "and this is home."
A 1969 graduate of Sam Rayburn High, Dr. McKinney was accompanied by his wife, Lou Ann, and his parents, both former Pasadena ISD educators.
His mother, Mary Lou McKinney, taught 18 years in the district at Bailey Elementary and Southmore Intermediate. His father, Jesse McKinney, taught nine years at South Houston High and then served 26 years in administration, as the district's Director of Maintenance and New Construction and also as interim assistant superintendent.
"This recognition is exciting and also very humbling," Dr. McKinney said.
Board of Trustees Vice President Marshall Kendrick, who taught Dr. McKinney in Sunday School, followed Dr. Lewis to the podium and recalled the love and guidance he witnessed in the McKinney household.
"It's been marvelous to see your career grow," Kendrick said. "We are honored to have you."
Dr. McKinney called out several of his former coaches and teammates in the audience at the Administration Building. He recalled the many happy days he spent playing sports in the backyards and on the playgrounds of Pasadena. He proudly pointed out that, as a Sam Rayburn senior, he played on teams that won district titles in football, basketball and baseball.
He also acknowledged his intensity for causes, whether it be defeating Pasadena High on the gridiron - which the Texans did for the first time in the fall of 1968 - or protesting a decision by school officials not to let girls join the Interact Club, of which he was president.
"I guess you say I was a little mouthy," he said with a smile.
Dr. McKinney's public profile includes the raising of three children, two of whom, Steve McKinney and Seth McKinney, were offensive line standouts at Texas A&M and then in the National Football League. His third son, Sean, is a member of Texas A&M's Class of 2012.
"I did raise big sons," he said with a laugh.
In 2001, in the middle of the McKinney boys' football reign at A&M, Dr. McKinney was named chief of staff for Gov. Rick Perry, a position he held for two years.
Earlier, during George W. Bush's first term as governor, Dr. McKinney was appointed by the future president as commissioner for the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.
He currently oversees an A&M system comprised of 11 universities, seven state agencies and a health science center. Those 11 universities in the A&M system provide advanced educational opportunities for more than 120,000 students and last year produced 24,000 graduates.
He acknowledged the irony of a career come "full circle," back around, he said, to education.
"I received a wonderful education through the Pasadena ISD," he said.
He related the story of how, in the days before public kindergarten, his first grade teacher at Gardens Elementary taught him to read.
"She taught me to love to read," he said. "I read everything I could get from that point on. I thirsted for knowledge."
"It is deeply gratifying to recall, on this special occasion, that Mike McKinney's marvelous journey began in Pasadena," Dr. Lewis said, "under the watchful eyes of two Pasadena educators, who just happened to be his parents."
Dr. McKinney attended Gardens, Golden Acres and Bailey elementary schools and Southmore Intermediate. At Sam Rayburn, he earned multiple letters in football, basketball and baseball. He served as president of the National Honor Society and was a recipient of the prestigious Jesse H. Jones Scholarship for academics.
He graduated from the University of Houston in 1973 and earned his medical degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston in 1976.
Dr. McKinney established a home for his young family in Centerville, Texas, and practiced medicine there for 16 years. In 1984, he was elected to the Texas House as representative for Leon, Madison, Grimes, Houston and Montgomery counties. He served as speaker pro-tempore of the House from 1989 to 1990.
After serving as Perry's chief of staff, he accepted leadership positions within the UT Health Science system, including vice chancellor for health affairs and acting dean of the UT Medical School in Houston. He became senior executive vice president and chief operating officer for the Health Science Center in September of 2003.
Just over three years later, in November of 2006, he was named chancellor of the A&M University System.
"Mike McKinney has applied his considerable skills to medicine, to lawmaking, to executive administration, to parenting." Dr. Lewis said, "and now, at this stage of his wonderful life, to education."
"I love education," Dr. McKinney said. "It is the great equalizer."
PREVIOUS DISTINGUISHED ALUMNUS AWARD RECIPIENTS
2010 - Rick Schriever, Sam Rayburn, 1973
2009 - Dr. Byron Tapley, Pasadena High, 1951
2008 - James R. Smith, South Houston, 1960
2007 - Dr. Carlton Horbelt, Pasadena High, 1973
2006 - Dr. Mary Campbell-Fox, Dobie, 1976
2005 - J. Michael Solar, Sam Rayburn, 1971
2004 - Dr. Paul Zanowiak, South Houston, 1965
2003 - Martin Cominsky, Pasadena High, 1976
2002 - Dr. Bill Allen, Pasadena High, 1951
2001 - Bill Shock, Pasadena High, 1954
2000 - Ben Meador, Pasadena High, 1957
1999 - Bill McMillin, Pasadena High, 1958
1998 - Robert Smith, Pasadena High, 1971
1997 - Larry Forehand, Pasadena High, 1962
1996 - Jonah Boyd, Pasadena High, 1955
Former Pasadena ISD teachers Jesse and Mary Lou McKinney listen to the tributes for their son, Dr. Mike McKinney, seated next to his mother.
Lou Ann and Dr. McKinney pause to take a look at a table display of memorabilia from Dr. McKinney's high-school days at Sam Rayburn.
Robert Stock, principal at Sam Rayburn, presents Dr. McKinney with a shadow box of momentos from his school days in the Pasadena ISD.
Marshall Kendrick, vice president of the Board of Trustees and Dr. McKinney's former Sunday School teacher, turns over the podium to the guest of honor after reading a letter of praise from one of Dr. McKinney's former rural Texas constituents.
District Superintendent Dr. Lewis hands over the microphone to Dr. McKinney for a few closing remarks.
Dr. McKinney and wife Lou Ann with Dr. McKinney's parents, Mary Lou and Jesse McKinney.
Dr. McKinney and Lou Ann with her mother, Pat Sherbrook, and sister, Beth Sledge.
Dr. McKinney with his brother Mark McKinney and sister Janice McKinney.
The entire clan: Dr. McKinney's niece, Kelsey McKinney; his mother, Mary Lou McKinney; his cousin, Debbie Wright; Dr. and Mrs. McKinney; his sister, Janice McKinney; his father, Jesse McKinney; his niece, Alison Rountree McKinney; his nephew, Jacob McKinney; his sister-in-law, Janis McKinney; and his brother, Mark McKinney.