[COC Foundation] — In recognition of his continued advocacy for higher education and decades of service to the Santa Clarita Valley, the College of the Canyons Foundation has named U.S. Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (Ret.) as the recipient of the college's 2018 "Silver Spur" Community Service Award.
As a driving force behind the City of Santa Clarita's incorporation, McKeon was elected as the city's first mayor in 1987, a position he held until he was elected to California's 25th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1992.
But once in Washington, McKeon never forgot about the city that elected him into office, especially the city's only community college.
At College of the Canyons, McKeon played an instrumental role in the Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center fundraising campaign as honorary chair. Serving alongside chairs Lou Garasi and Tom Lee, McKeon helped the college acquire roughly $2.3 million in federal funding to help open and equip the college's Interim University Center, which opened in 2002.
Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center, College of the CanyonsAs honorary chair, McKeon also helped the college secure meetings with other potential donors and arranged visits to other University Center facilities across the country to prove the project's viability and showcase how this model could be used back home in Santa Clarita.
Four years later, McKeon was elected as Chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee in Congress, where he focused on a myriad of issues including teacher quality, school choice and access to higher education. McKeon also worked to increase Pell Grant authorizations, cut student loan interest rates, and streamline the financial aid system for college students.
In addition, he demonstrated a continued interest in clearing pathways for veterans to return to college, providing new job training options for local students and residents, and supporting the college's Center for Applied Competitive Technologies.
"Buck McKeon has been a longtime supporter of College of the Canyons and higher education," Van Hook said. "From his time as Mayor of Santa Clarita to his tenure as Chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee, he has made access to quality education a top priority."
After retiring from Congress in 2015, McKeon established the McKeon Leadership Forum, a speaker series that promotes civic engagement through personal involvement, at COC. Thought leaders from politics, government, and military engage community members and inspire them to become involved in current issues.
McKeon also donated an array of personal items and official documents from his service in Congress to the college in an effort to help inspire the next generation of civic leaders. The McKeon Collection, archived in the college's library, includes official documents, as well as numerous awards, plaques, and photographs acquired over McKeon's political career.
Last year, McKeon donated $10,000 to seed the McKeon Scholars scholarship fund through the College of the Canyons Foundation. The annual $500 award is given to students majoring in political science and/or pursuing careers involving public service and civic engagement.
"Buck is most deserving of the Silver Spur award, our highest accolade we can bestow upon an individual who has contributed to the betterment of life in the Santa Clarita Valley and whose actions reflect a distinction and interest in the college," Van Hook said. "College of the Canyons owes a great deal to his tireless behind-the-scenes efforts in Washington and we are truly honored to count Chairman McKeon among the college's most passionate supporters."
In 2000, McKeon was granted an honorary associate of arts degree from COC for his commitment to education.
A Los Angeles native, McKeon attended Brigham Young University where he earned a bachelor's degree in business, which proved useful when he went into business with his four brothers. The family-operated company, Howard and Phil's Western Wear, went on to become the largest western wear retailer in the nation.
Before serving as Mayor of the City of Santa Clarita, McKeon had already proven his passion for civic engagement. He was elected to the William S. Hart Union High School District and was Chairman of the Board of the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital.
Always a strong supporter of local businesses, McKeon helped create Valencia National Bank, which gave local businesses access to small business loans, resulting in more jobs within the community. He also served on the Santa Clarita Valley Small Business Development Center Business Survival Committee in 1992.
Since retiring from Congress, McKeon has continued to advocate for a variety of education issues with his team at the McKeon Group, which is a consulting firm that provides advocacy, public relations, strategic analysis, and government relations for clients. He and his wife of 55 years, Patricia Kunz, have six children, 31 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Tom Dierckman, a member of the College of the Canyons Foundation Board of Directors, and past recipient of the Silver Spur award, praised McKeon's consistent focus on meeting the needs of Santa Clarita.
"At our college, in our community, or at the national level, Buck has always distinguished himself as a hands-on leader willing to do whatever was required to make things better, to achieve the greater good," Dierckman said.
"As one of Santa Clarita's 'founding fathers,' Chairman McKeon has dedicated his life to the growth and development of this community," said Brian Koegle, who is co-chairing the event with his wife Lindsay. "His support of College of the Canyons, and Chancellor Van Hook's vision for a true 'community' college has been indispensable. We are absolutely thrilled to honor his career achievements and community contributions with the 2018 Silver Spur Award."
Also co-chairing the event are Foundation Board members, Nick and Elise Lentini. "As co-chairs with Brian and Lindsay Koegle, Elise and I could not be more excited and honored to be involved with the 2018 Silver Spur event Honoring Buck McKeon," Lentini said. "Buck has done so much not only for College of the Canyons but our community as well. We look forward to an enjoyable evening celebrating Buck's accomplishments and community service."
The 2018 Silver Spur Celebration took place on Saturday, March 24, 2018, at The Ronald Reagan Library, Air Force One Pavilion located at 40 Presidential Drive in Simi Valley.
Previous Silver Spur recipients include: Jack and Doreen Shine; Jill Mellady; Henry Mayo Newhall Foundation; Remo and Ami Belli, Barry and Pati Gump, Richard and Marian Sandnes, Diana Cusumano, Myrna and Gary Condie, Harold and Jacquie Petersen, Wayne Crawford, Rita Garasi, Tom Veloz, Charlotte and Frank Kleeman, Gary Cusumano, Jay and Joyce Rodgers, Tom Lee, Lou Garasi, Michael Berger, Roberta Veloz, Dick Luechtefeld, Robert Ormsby, LaVerne Harris, John Hoskinson, Scott and Ruth Newhall, Elisha "Aggie" Agajanian, Cliffie Stone, and Tom Dierckman.