By Mike O'Brien
Assistant AD for Communications
The power of sports can be an incredible thing—from the lifelong friendships that are formed to the invaluable lessons an athlete learns from a coach. This is evidenced by Class of 1977 alumnus Sean McKeown, through his continued support of Wesleyan Athletics.
An Enfield, Connecticut, native—the same hometown as Director of Athletics Mike Whalen '83—McKeown played baseball, basketball, and football at Enrico Fermi High School. After hearing about Wesleyan through word of mouth, he traveled to campus to meet with legendary coaches Bill Macdermott (football) and Peter "Kosty" Kostacopolous (baseball). Having the opportunity to play two sports, mixed with the academic prestige of the University, McKeown knew Wesleyan would be a good fit.
McKeown's athletic talent helped him excel at the collegiate level, where he shone on the gridiron and on the baseball field. He was a three-year starter for both the football and baseball programs, playing defensive back in the fall and right field/first base in the spring. During his four years in Middletown, McKeown was a part of 57 total wins as the Cardinals went 46-37 overall in baseball and 14-17-1 in football. In 1974, his freshman season, the baseball team went 15-7 en route to an ECAC New England Division III Tournament title.
When asked about his favorite collegiate moment as an athlete, McKeown recalls, without hesitation, defeating Trinity in the final football game of his career. The Cardinals, who were 4-3 overall, were coming off back-to-back losses as they prepared to host a talented Bantam squad that figured to be the clear favorite. But Wesleyan easily handled Trinity, claiming a 44-0 victory. "It was a nice way to finish my career," said McKeown. "It's a memory I'll have forever—going out on the winning side."
McKeown, who was also a member of the Chi Psi fraternity, graduated from Wesleyan in 1977 and attended the University of Michigan shortly thereafter. After receiving his MBA, he accepted a position at the McMaster-Carr Supply Company—a company that supplies industrial goods—in Chicago, Illinois. After a two-year stint in Chicago, he worked at the company's New Jersey branch for 10 years before coming back to Chicago for good. He has now been with McMaster-Carr for 38 years and counting.
"The fact that I'm still with the same company 38 years later is an unusual thing to happen these days, and the fact I've been able to advance and grow with the company, and still enjoy doing what I'm doing, is probably the best thing that has happened to me in my career," said McKeown.
Despite living more than 800 miles away from campus, McKeown still keeps Wesleyan close to his heart. In fact, his longstanding support of the Athletic Department was recognized in 2002 with the first-ever Kosty Award. The award, named after Coach "Kosty" Kostacopolous, who served as Wesleyan's baseball coach from 1974 to 2001, is given annually to a Wesleyan baseball alumnus who has generously supported the program. McKeown received the award because of his financial contribution that year, which allowed the team to travel to Florida during a transitional period when Coach "Kosty" retired and current head coach Mark Woodworth '94 served as the interim.
"Growing up in the same hometown as Sean, he was someone who I admired because he excelled both on the field and in the classroom," said Whalen. "Since graduating from Wesleyan, Sean has been a very loyal alum who has consistently supported our football and baseball programs. We have had a lot of success recently in both sports and many of those accomplishments would not have been possible without the support of alumni like Sean."
In addition to the Kosty Award, McKeown was also recognized as a member of the "Friends of Wesleyan Baseball" Club in 2016 for his generous contributions to the program to help fund the team's spring trip and assistant coach positions that season.
McKeown has also been a longtime member of the Athletic Advisory Council at Wesleyan and is one of the lead donors for the recently established Bill Macdermott Football Endowment (Macdermott passed away in May 2016). The endowment funds create a strong foundation on which to build and sustain championship-level programs. The Bill Macdermott Football Endowment exists in perpetuity as a supplemental, self-sustaining fund providing support for the annual Macdermott Award as well as resources for enhancement of the football program.
An avid golfer, McKeown is still very close with many of his classmates and gets together with them on a regular basis for golf trips. He visits Wesleyan as much as he can, including two trips last season for Homecoming and his class reunion.
"As I get older, I realize that it's nice to rekindle some of the friendships that you see when you come to the games," he said. "It was harder to do when the kids were growing up and involved in activities but now that they are grown and out of the house, it's easier to get there."
McKeown returns to campus yet again Saturday to serve as the team's honorary captain—an honor that he rightfully deserves.