ALL IN THE FAMILY
Bob McKeown '88
Injuries can change your life in a positive and negative way. When an injury occurs, it forces you to reexamine not only your current situation, but also your future. For Bob McKeown, it led him to NCCC – an institution that “saved [him] both educationally and professionally.”
“I had broken 5 ribs and collapsed my lung after getting hit in the back with a helmet playing football my freshman year at UB,” Bob told me. “While I was injured, I started to look at other college catalogs. Since I couldn’t play football anymore, I noticed that NCCC had a great program and I could get an internship right away. I decided to transfer to NCCC, became a Communications major, and played baseball for two years,” said Bob.
“Getting hurt at UB turned into a gift because it forced me to look at my career and what I wanted to do after college. Because of that, I found a better program for me and a better place to be at NCCC.”
During his time as a student, Bob interned at Channel 7, played baseball for NCCC where he was named MVP and the 1st Team All-Conference player, and worked with the College radio and television station WNCB. “My internship is where I spent most of my time,” said Bob. “I was required to do 100 hours, but I think I spent 1000 hours there because I enjoyed it so much and wanted to get my name out there. I also had some great adjunct instructors at NCCC who were working in the field at the same time that I learned a lot from.”
After graduating from NCCC with his Associates Degree in Communications and Media Arts, Bob continued his career at WKBW-TV, Channel 7. “Ever since I was young, I knew I wanted to work in television. I started when I was 14 at WJJL radio in Niagara Falls doing half-time statistics for Niagara University basketball games. There’s always been something about television that has interested me and if I could talk about sports at the same time, that makes it even better.”
Over the next 10-years, Bob worked his way from Sports Producer, to Sports Reporter, and then to Sports Anchor at Channel 7. “My plan after television was always to teach and to coach. After leaving Channel 7, NCCC was the first place I called because I thought if I enjoyed my experience so much as a student that I would love working at NCCC as well,” he said.
“I started as a part-time coach and a part-time Sports Information Director at NCCC. I then became an Advisor to the student newspaper, The Spirit, publishing 12-page weekly editions. Afterwards, there were no available jobs in Athletics, but I was given the opportunity to work in Admissions as a summer relief position for someone who retired quickly. I absolutely loved it! I loved working with the students and the energy that they gave me. Since I enjoyed the position so much, as soon as the job went to search I applied for it and got it.”
While working in the Admissions Office, Bob continued as the women’s softball coach for 10-years, men’s assistant basketball coach for 1-year, and women’s basketball coach for 5-years. “I always had a hand in the Athletics Office as a coach, but it was my objective to eventually become the Athletic Director. I had so many goals for the department that when the position became available I decided that I had to apply for it. I was lucky enough to be named NCCC's new Athletic Director in 2010.”
“As the new Athletic Director, it was my goal to make our department more competitive with nationally ranked teams and full time coaches. NCCC is now respected around the region and the nation for our programs. We are recognized as one of the toughest teams in certain sports including baseball, basketball and wrestling. We also have 3 full time coaches and are nationally ranked in more than one sport. Our baseball team has gone to the World Series 5 times out of the past 7 years and that’s all because of the coaches and their dedication. I came in with goals, but we were able to make them successful because of the dedication and determination of the coaches and staff.”
In 2017, Bob transferred from the Athletics Department to Admissions at NCCC as the Interim Director. He is now currently the Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Management. “My job is to create an enrollment focused culture on campus. We have one of the best facilities, the best faculty and administrators, and now we need to create one of the best student experiences for incoming and returning students. What I do is look at our processes – what we do and how we do them – and make sure they’re in the best interest of the student. I look at what can we change to make their time at NCCC even better and eventually attract more students."
In order to help create this environment for students, Bob has become instrumental in the implementation of the “Smart Start” scholarship program. “It’s a unique scholarship program which gives out 100 scholarships worth $2000 each to students who meet the criteria.” Two scholarships were given to each of the Niagara County High Schools to award to their graduating seniors. Also, eight scholarships were given to the winners of the Culinary Arts Pro Start Program. In addition, NCCC awarded scholarships to students in their “Come Back and Complete” program. This program allows students who have earned 30 or more credit hours, but needed to take some time off of school, to come back to NCCC and complete their degree. Finally, scholarships were awarded to students in NCCC housing who are from out of the area and needed additional financial assistance. “It’s a brand new, one year program that allows NCCC to become more competitive with other institutions and take a more aggressive approach for recruitment purposes. We are very excited to see if we can renew it next year having already witnessed some of the results.”
Over 30 years ago, Bob McKeown transferred from UB to NCCC after facing devastating injuries. He had no idea that this change would impact the rest of his life and that NCCC would become his family. “I owe this institution everything and I think it’s important for everyone to understand whether you work here, attend here, or are just associated with here, that NCCC is a special place. There is a reason why people stay at NCCC for their entire careers, why students keep coming back, and why generations of families come here…we have something exceptional and we should never take it for granted. I never thought I would be here for more than 20 years, but it’s such a tremendous place. Once you’re here, it’s amazing to see all that NCCC does. It was a great place for me as a student and now it’s an even better place for me to work.”