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Former Faculty Member and Unifying Figure Jean McKee Passes Away at 89

Jean Crawford McKee former Director of Admissions for the Summer Session, passed away on December 12 at the age of 89. McKee served as the cornerstone of an informal women’s support network at Andover in the years before and after coeducation.

Although McKee served many professional roles during her 42 years on campus, she was most importantly a prominent welcoming force on campus, particularly for women.

“Having come to Andover well before the school’s transition to coeducation, Jean was part of a formidable cohort of women who bridged the old and the new institutions,” wrote Rebecca Sykes, former Associate Head of School, in an email to The Phillipian.

McKee and her husband Peter, joined the Andover faculty in 1947 and retired in 1989. She served as an admissions coordinator, compliment house counselor, day student advisor, tennis coach and a Trustee of New York City’s Oliver Program to recruit inner city minority students to Andover.

McKee was a member of Benevy, the Ladies’ Benevolent Society, a group of faculty member’s wives. “If people had babies, they would deliver food. If people were going through a rough time, they would be there to give support. It was just this wonderfully caring, supportive group on campus,” said Elizabeth Washburn, Assistant Director of Summer Session.

Nicholas Kip, Instructor in Classics and longtime friend of the McKee’s, said, “I remember that Ted Sizer’s wife, Nancy Sizer, knitted a tiny Andover sweater for my daughter when she was six-months-old. Jean McKee used to do things like that.”

Washburn said, “She was definitely one of the people who was a huge advocate of women holding roles and having an equal voice in how to shape the future Phillips Academy.”

Jean McKee was one of the first Andover staff members Rebecca Sykes and her husband, Elwin Sykes, former Instructor in English, met when they arrived at Andover in 1973.

“Jean was both a woman with her own professional role and standing in the community, and what we used to call a ‘helpmate’ to her husband, Peter. She graciously co-hosted dinners as the wife of a senior administrator, and she was deeply involved in the programmatic side of the school as well,” wrote Rebecca Sykes.

Jean McKee’s husband, Peter McKee, former Acting Head of School, Associate Headmaster, Dean of Studies, Dean of Students, Dean of Faculty and Department Chair in Science, passed away in 2005.

Once or twice a year, the McKees hosted 20 or 30 faculty members at their house for dinner just to enjoy everyone’s companies. “She was the kind of person who, not only did she communicate with faculty and administrators, but was also very good people-person with the students here,” said Kip.

“If you, as a young faculty couple, were invited to a dinner party hosted by Jean and Peter, you had the feeling that you had finally arrived at Phillips Academy. She was so upbeat and positive that she lit up a room when she entered. Both Peter and she were revered by their dorm residents and the whole community,” wrote Christopher Gurry, Instructor in History, in an email.

Washburn said, “She was one of those wonderful hostesses and welcoming faculty members. And she just embraced new members of the faculty and made them feel comfortable, and was always aware of how people were doing and always had a quiet word.”

McKee was also involved in the Campus Beautification Committee. “She did a lot of work with planting things and pruning and making the campus look a lot nicer. That was a big interest of hers. She was generous, kind and a wonderful person,” said Thomas Cone, Instructor in Biology.

After retiring in 1989, the McKees moved permanently to their home in the Lake Sunapee area in New Hampshire. Jean McKee passed away at Woodcrest Village in New London, NH last Thursday.

McKee was the daughter of William and Edna Crawford and was born in Ridgewood, New Jersey in August 1924. She graduated from Ridgewood High School in 1942 and from Middlebury College in 1946, according to Chadwick Funeral Services.

She met Peter McKee while at Middlebury and they were married on April 8, 1947, six months before they arrived at Andover.

McKee is survived by her son Peter Q. McKee Jr. and her two daughters, Patricia Halsey ’77 and Cynthia Scott, according to Chadwick Funeral Services.

Memorial donations in honor of McKee can be made to The Peter Q. McKee Scholarship Fund at Andover or to the Lake Sunapee Region Visiting Nurse Association and the St. Andrews Church of New London.