Louisa McCune ~ Nurturing the Fine Art of Philanthropy

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At 2014 OCU Innocence Project dinner
At Central Oklahoma Human Society Banquet
Regional Emmy awards with creators of The Dogs of Lexington documentary
With Trustee Mischa Gorkuscha, Christian Keesee
With Yo Yo Ma at State Department in April 2015

Louisa McCune ~ Nurturing the Fine Art of Philanthropy


Louisa McCune might still be the editor in chief of Oklahoma Today had she not received a compelling text message one Sunday afternoon in 2011 from philanthropist Christian Keesee.

“He wondered if I might be interested in the executive director position at the Kirkpatrick Foundation,” she recalls, smiling at the memory.

“We spoke that evening, emailed back and forth the next day and by Tuesday at 11 a.m., it was practically a done deal. That Friday, the foundation’s Board of Trustees approved my selection and six weeks later, I arrived for my first day on the job.”

That date, April 21, 2011, is etched in her memory as a pivotal life moment.

There was personal history in that phone call, too, McCune said.

“Chris and I had been friends since 1998, and our grandparents were close friends in the decades before that. Also, he had invited me to serve on the board for Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center [then called City Arts Center] in 2009, so our friendship was growing in a professional context.”

McCune describes Keesee, the only grandchild of the late Oklahoma City philanthropists John and Eleanor Kirkpatrick, as “exceptional and extraordinary.”

“When I first came to the foundation, I perceived myself as a visionary, not in a smug way, but I’d always been charged with looking to the future. Chris outperforms everyone I know in the category of visionary. If I think in 10- or 20-year increments, he thinks 50 and 75 years ahead,” she said.

Perhaps Keesee inherited that penchant for futuristic thinking from his grandfather, the Kirkpatrick Foundation founder, whose foresight in Oklahoma City’s formative years led to the creation of numerous assets, including the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, the Oklahoma Zoological Society and the Kirkpatrick Center, now known as the Oklahoma Science Museum. John and Eleanor Kirkpatrick established the foundation in 1955 with an initial contribution of $10,000.

Early on in her leadership position, McCune found the organization’s mission statement—to support arts, culture, education, animal well-being, environmental conservation and historic preservation, primarily in Central Oklahoma — to be a guiding principal. She says that it’s focused and clear and makes the staff’s work very straightforward.

“If it’s not in those areas, we don’t touch it.”

As executive director, McCune oversees the foundation’s operations, from grants to the execution and strategy of its two major initiatives, Safe & Humane, which debuted in July 2012, and ArtDesk, a magazine launched in October 2013.

Safe & Humane endeavors to make Oklahoma the safest and most humane place for animals by the year 2032. The effort includes a forthcoming baseline study two years in the works, a regular convening of leaders via the Oklahoma Roundtable for Animal Welfare, the creation of a major conference, and financially supporting the work of non-profits for research, veterinary advancements, and to end cruelty, abuse, and animal homelessness. Safe & Humane also includes the creation of a state-of-the art animal hospital at the Oklahoma City Zoo.

“Zoo hospitals do more than treat individual animals,” Keesee wrote in the foundation’s 2014 annual report. “The scientists and doctors who work there help to ensure that our grandchildren will see a world at least as biodiverse as the one we grew up in, strengthening the capacity for endangered species to survive.”

The hospital is named for Keesee’s mother, the late Joan Kirkpatrick, who loved and nurtured animals throughout her life.

In March, the foundation hosted the Animal Conference, an international forum featuring 54 speakers focusing on animal-related topics from pleasure and desire in animals to industrial animal agriculture and water quality. More than 330 people attended from 16 states, which McCune considered a big success in advancing the connection between animal wellbeing and a community’s quality of life.

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