Obituary: Ron McKinley, leader in nonprofit world

  • Article by: GRAYDON ROYCE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 22, 2013 - 10:56 PM

Ron McKinley’s life was guided by the idea that all people should have the opportunity to succeed.

Ron McKinley was killed in a motorcycle accident.

Ron McKinley, a longtime figure in the Twin Cities nonprofit and philanthropic communities, was killed Sunday when his motorcycle was struck by a car that crossed the centerline on Hwy. 20 near Okanogan in north-central Washington. A passenger, Ann K. Johnson, 49, of St. Paul, also was killed.

McKinley, 64, was dedicated to equality and worked with organizations that promoted opportunities across a broad array of concerns.

“He was a force of nature,” said Susan Mackay, a longtime friend who recruited McKinley several years ago for the Mixed Blood Theatre board of directors. “Social-justice issues were at the core of who he was, and they informed the way he lived.” McKinley was Mixed Blood’s board president, succeeding Mackay four years ago.

“He had been my vice president, but he was also my best coach,” Mackay said. “He taught me what a good board member did because he had so much experience and his leadership qualities were amazing.”

An Illinois native and St. Olaf graduate, McKinley’s roots as a Mescalero Apache seeped their way into many of his passion projects. His positions included vice president of the St. Paul Companies Foundation, founding director of the Minnesota Minority Education Partnership, coordinator of American Indian Programs for Macalester College and executive director of the National Network of Grantmakers. He was also active in Native Americans in Philanthropy.

“He had a great sense of humor and spirit about him,” said Elaine Salinas, president of MIGIZI publications. McKinley was treasurer of that organization, which promotes messages of success for American Indians. “When he commits to a project, he gives 150 percent.”

Salinas said McKinley worked to keep programs focused on the people they’re intended to serve — a key principle that often gets lost.

McKinley was a Harley-Davidson enthusiast who took long annual trips, but surgeries on his legs had forced him to use a three-wheeler in recent years. He lived in St. Paul with his wife, Devon. He is also survived by daughters Whitney and Channing and two granddaughters. Services are pending.

Graydon Royce • 612-673-7299

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