By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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“Today, Tom, it's all about you,” said Mike Glenn, chair of the Peninsula College Board of Trustees, to start off the building dedication ceremony Friday afternoon.
Roughly 100 people — some sitting in provided chairs, some standing, others peering over the building's main stairwell — crowded into the main foyer of Keegan Hall on the Port Angeles campus to honor the former president who returned from Mount Vernon, where he has served as president of Skagit Valley College since February, for the ceremony.
Keegan had led Peninsula College, which has branches in Port Townsend and Forks, through a decade of dramatic growth during his tenure, which began in 2001.
The community college experienced not only soaring enrollment, but also a transformation of the teaching and learning environment
Keegan Hall, formerly known as the Science and Technology Building or M Building, was built in 2007 as one of the many capital improvements made to the Port Angeles campus under Keegan's leadership.
The college's Board of Trustees voted unanimously this January to rename the Science and Technology Building in Keegan's honor.
Keegan Hall houses a lecture hall, 13 labs, five classrooms, faculty offices and one conference room in each of the building's separate science and technology wings.
Glenn was one of eight speakers at the ceremony who extolled Keegan's virtues as a visionary leader who led a $120 million capital construction campaign that refurbished or replaced 75 percent of Peninsula College's facilities.
“Tom's legacy is the transformation of our physical campus into the most beautiful and functional campus in Washington state,” said Karen Gates Hildt, former college Board of Trustees member.
In addition to the facility improvements, Keegan was praised for his work to unite the diverse communities that call the North Olympic Peninsula home.
Keegan was especially recognized for the construction of the campus's Longhouse, the first such native structure built on a community college campus in the nation.
Praise from Kessler
“This Longhouse is not just stunning building, it's a bridge across the entire community,” said Lynn Kessler, the 18-year Democratic legislator from Hoquiam who represented the North Olympic Peninsula until she retired in 2010.
Kessler had worked closely with Keegan to secure funds for the college's capital improvements.
Members of both the Lower Elwha Klallam and Makah tribes also spoke at the ceremony to thank Keegan for his efforts to improve the college's relationship with the area's native tribes.
Makah Tribal member William Melville sang a echoing song of love and thanks from his people at the ceremony to honor Keegan.
“We want you to remember the song and the tone as they resonate in this amazing building,” Melville said.
Current Peninsula College President Luke Robins said he was singularly impressed by the quality of the campus's buildings and the focus on learning and community he found when he interviewed for the president's position earlier this year.
“Keegan Hall is a physical testament to our ongoing mission of teaching success,” Robins said.
“I know that we will continue to honor that commitment to teaching and learning in the years to come.”
Kessler, who once served as the Democratic House Majority Leader in the state Legislature, said it was Keegan's dedication to both higher education and the community that made him a successful college president and inspired the ceremony's attendees and speakers to honor him.
“He had a vision. He knew what he wanted for the students of this campus,” Kessler said, “and because he had a vision, that allowed him to do amazing things.”
Keegan, as the ceremony wound down, expressed his gratitude to all those who attended and to each speaker individually for their contributions to the college and for working with him to improve both the campus and the community.
“Thank you all for being here,” Keegan said, holding back tears.
“I am honored that you took the time to be here.”
“It's a day I'll never forget.”
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.