Teacher Honored for Service

By: 
Kirt Ramirez
Pat McKean being congratulated by former LB Mayor and former LBCC President Beverly O'Neill.

Pat McKean is a mentor, a professional, energetic, organized, strict, kind, loyal, modern, yet old-fashioned and genuine with a big smile.

These were some of the words used to describe the Long Beach City College journalism instructor and Viking newspaper adviser during his retirement party May 31.

Former students, family, friends, colleagues and members of the press gathered in room 1200 in the new T Building at the Liberal Arts Campus to celebrate McKean’s 30 years of service at the community college.

Having influenced 4,000 students in his three decades, the hard-nosed-reporter-turned-teacher, who turns 62 in July, received a standing ovation from the attendees during the event.

Former Long Beach Mayor Beverly O’Neill – who worked at LBCC for 32 years – attended the get-together to congratulate McKean and wish him well. O’Neill taught singing and music classes before becoming the superintendent-president.

She presided over the college during McKean’s hiring in 1988 and retired from education in 1993.

“Thirty-years ago, I saw a tall skinny guy,” she joked to the audience. “He’s still a tall skinny guy.”

O’Neill said there was something about McKean’s vitality that struck her when she first met him. She could not pinpoint it exactly but said she felt good things would come out of him.

Students would work on the college’s Viking and McKean would advise. They’d cover school-related topics and events day and night, even on weekends. It was a hands-on experience for them.

O’Neill said she looked forward to reading the Viking and sometimes problems got resolved after a story came out. Every now and then an item would be picked up by other newspapers.

“The thousands of people that you have changed, thousands of young people that had a future because of you; all of these things are mind-boggling,” O’Neill said. “His job was teaching, yes, but there’s more than that. It was personal.”

Current LBCC Superintendent-President Reagan Romali spoke highly of McKean and his honoring of the freedom of the press.

“I so appreciate the work that you have put in over 30 years,” she said. “I see you as more than just an institution here. I see you as upholder of democracy.”

Fifteen guest speakers plus some of McKean’s six siblings took to the podium during the two-hour occasion, emceed by part-time LBCC journalism instructor and former McKean student Cindy Frye, who used to write for the Beachcomber.

Renowned LBCC track coach Ron Allice recalled when McKean – as a teacher – enrolled in 12 units so that he could qualify to be on the track team.

McKean joined the LBCC track and field team and cross-country team and ran from 1989 through 1991, training 15 hours per week.

In the Fall of 1990, the men’s cross-country team made history.

“We, that includes him, won the one and only state cross-country championship in the history of Long Beach City College,” Allice said.

“Because of his personality, he was adopted by that group. He became a contributor. He became a point person,” he said, adding the group reunites every 10 years.

Mark Taylor, chief of staff for Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, presented McKean with a certificate of recognition. Taylor and Garcia worked in communications at LBCC previously.

Vivian Malauulu, a member of the LBCC Board of Trustees and past journalism instructor, thanked McKean for hiring her many years ago.

“I’ve had many bosses; he’s my favorite,” she said. “He is a man of integrity. Pat is passionate about education; he’s passionate about students, passionate about journalism. He’s a stickler just like I am. He’s very strict, as his students will say.”

Chris Viola came to LBCC from the Philippines more than 20 years ago. He joined the Viking and cherishes McKean’s mentoring. Today he works as the Viking’s photo adviser.

“I now have this job 20-something years later,” he said.

Part-time LBCC journalism instructor, Javier Mendoza, who also is public relations director for Frontier Communications, knew McKean before he became a teacher. They worked together at the Herald Examiner.

McKean brought Mendoza to LBCC some 29 years ago.

Mendoza described McKean as respectful, honest, dedicated, generous and truthful among other words.

“And above all, probably the most important quality as a journalist, Pat’s always striving to be happy and fair,” he added.

McKean has advised 526 printed Vikings in his career.

The newspaper and students have brought home numerous awards in state and regional competitions through the Journalism Association of Community Colleges.

As many as 16 print editions of the Viking were published each semester in the late 1980s and early 90s but readership shifted to online, McKean said. Currently five print issues come out a semester.

McKean calls San Pedro and Ventura his two hometowns.

He toiled in many occupations, starting at his father’s Chicken Delight restaurant in Ventura at age eight.

McKean’s mother was a journalist and she’d take him along on interviews. The training would help him later at the Herald Examiner, Camarillo Daily News, Lompoc Record, Orange County Register and Santa Maria Times.

A Ventura High graduate, McKean earned an associate degree at Ventura College, a bachelor’s from USC and a master’s from Long Beach State.

He loves the Angels and roots for the USC Trojans.

In his retirement, McKean said he wants to travel, workout, play softball, perhaps finish a book he started in 1980, volunteer and learn how to cook, among other things.

He can spend more time with his son Randy, 21, and daughter Alana, 24. He remains good friends with former wife Cindy Schoelen.

McKean’s tips for journalism students: Avoid gross factual errors, spell all the words right, get all four truths in the story, take two pens to every interview “And for heaven’s sake, please make sure you put the ‘r’ in shirt.”

He added, “Always remember that we comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

McKean honored his late parents Mac and Maggie and closed with words from them: “Spell the words right and work hard.”

kirt@beachcomber.news

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