Librarian Emeritus of the College
The library is the heart of any institution of higher learning, and Christopher McKee has worked tirelessly for some four decades to make sure that Grinnell College’s heart is sound. Often this work goes unnoticed; the vital role of the Grinnell College Libraries is easily taken for granted. Indeed, it is a mark of success when things go so smoothly that the College can rely on the libraries reflexively and without concern.
McKee came to Grinnell College in 1971 after serving on the faculties of Washington and Lee University and Southern Illinois University. He was appointed Samuel R. and Marie-Louise Rosenthal Professor of Library Science in 1977. Since last month he has been a scholar-in-residence at The Newberry, Chicago’s independent research library. While head of the College’s libraries, he presided over the development of fully automated library services, oversaw the renovation and expansion of Burling Library in the 1980s, and worked with the team that created the Noyce Science Center to develop the new Kistle Science Library there. Perhaps most importantly, he built a strong, service-oriented library staff of wide-ranging skills and interests that supports faculty, staff, students, and the entire Grinnell community.
He is also a scholar of the lives of officers and sailors in the United States and British navies. His work includes three books, Edward Preble: A Naval Biography, 1761–1807 (1972), which the Naval Institute Press later included in its “Classics of Naval Literature” series; A Gentlemanly and Honorable Profession: The Creation of the U.S. Naval Officer Corps, 1794–1815 (1991); and Sober Men and True: Sailor Lives in the Royal Navy, 1900–1945, (2002). He is now working on a manuscript with the working title: Ungentle Goodnights: Life in a Home for Elderly Naval Sailors and Marines, 1831–1895.