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The arts community and non-profit sector lost a truly one-of-a-kind leader in March 2021 when Ross McKeen died after a six-month long battle with pancreatic cancer.

Ross McKeen was the Managing Director at Oregon Children’s Theatre for 13 years. Before that, he spent ten years as a Fundraising Consultant and Grant Writer. He was also the General Manager of Portland Center Stage from 1995-1998. It's an impressive resume for an arts leader.

But Ross was much more than his resume. If you worked in the non-profit sector in Oregon, Ross was THE person you went to for advice and mentorship. He was kind, he was funny, he was extremely knowledgeable about non-profit leadership, and most importantly – he would give you the unvarnished truth. He was truly special, and his wisdom and experience are irreplaceable. That is a lot of superlatives for one person but in the case of Ross McKeen – it’s no exaggeration. He was the best.

In response to this loss, a collective of colleagues/friends have organized to create a grant program to honor Ross McKeen’s legacy.  We wish Ross could still be here to continue to advise, inspire, and yes – entertain, our sector for years to come. But since we can’t make that happen, we’d like to provide a little dose of Ross as a way of thanking him for his years of service by establishing the Ross McKeen Memorial Award for Leadership Development. 




Janine Twining

Without a doubt, I am who I am, doing what I do in the nonprofit sector, because he believed in me. I even referenced this in a board meeting earlier this week. I am guided by “what would Ross McKeen do?” moments ALL the time.


Jonathan Shmidt Chapman

Ross was an incredible leader, and a wise, steady presence among the field’s leadership. I valued his counsel and admired his collaborative spirit. He will be missed by so many, and his legacy lives on in the work of OCT and the young people who have been impacted by the programs he championed.


Gretchen Schackel

Ross was incredibly kind to me when I was just starting my nonprofit career. He gave me insightful & honest advice. He made me laugh & gave great hugs. He was a trusted friend to so many of my colleagues - beloved is an understatement. The Portland arts community won't see another like him.


Who was

Ross McKeen?

Award Recipients

A list of award recipients and their projects.


Send us your questions and comments.

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