Foundation, Inc. (CFI) developed the McKeown Scholars
Program in 1996, in memory of James L. McKeown, late
president of Cummings Properties and former managing
trustee of the Foundation, who died suddenly in 1996
at the age of 41. The Foundation has awarded $1,931,000
million in scholarship awards in Mr. McKeown's honor.
James L. McKeown
McKeown was a well known business leader, widely respected
for his outstanding professional expertise, as well
as his unwavering integrity, compassion, and far-reaching
desire to provide opportunities to others, particularly
young people. He left his wife, Denise, and two very
young daughters, Kelly and Molly.
Woburn native and graduate of Woburn High School, Salem
State College, and University of Vermont, Mr. McKeown
also studied at the Harvard Graduate School of Design,
and had lectured at Massachusetts Center for Continuing
Legal Education. He was a marathon runner, competitive
swimmer, bicyclist, golfer, and tennis player.
his entire working career with Cummings Properties,
Mr. McKeown maintained many community roles, including
service as a member and treasurer of Woburn Industrial
Development Finance Authority and president of Woburn
Business Association. He was once selected as "Boy
of the Year" at what is now Woburn Boys and Girls
Club. Closely associated with that organization nearly
all his life, he went on to become the first-ever Boys
and Girls Club alumnus to be elected a director, and
then served two terms as its youngest president, as
James L. McKeown
and selection criteria for the McKeown Scholars Program
represent qualities, values and achievements Mr. McKeown
embodied and would most likely have considered himself
in determining award recipients. Some of these criteria
include scholarship, excellent writing ability, community
service, reputation for fairness and integrity, and
a demonstrated concern for helping others.
the McKeown Scholars Program attempts to recognize the
very top high school graduate in Woburn, where CFI has
its most significant interests, and in Winchester, where
it has its origins. To be considered as potential McKeown
Scholars, candidates must be in the upper 20 percent
of their graduating class, and must then write a 500-word
essay under exam conditions on a subject that is first
announced at the hour of the essay competition.
essays are then number-coded and anonymously
graded, and a committee at each high school
determines the actual $10,000 award winner for
that community, based strictly on merit. Selection
is based on essay results and personal interviews,
plus other evidence of each candidate's writing
skills, community service, and overall aptitude.
Financial need is not considered, and CFI has
no direct involvement in the actual selection
of any winners. Winners also receive handsome
commendatory plaques at awards ceremonies at
their respective community's high school.
addition to the McKeown Scholars Program, Cummings Foundation,
Inc. now makes lump sum donations to the annual high
school scholarship campaigns in communities where it
owns substantial properties or has other special interests.
These funds are then disbursed at the individual communities'
discretion, based on students' merit and/or financial
need, as applicable.
Foundation's scholarship program was directly designed
to focus extra community attention on improving the
writing ability of local area students. In that regard,
its interests closely parallel the business strategy
of Cummings Properties, which for decades has placed
a very heavy emphasis on hiring people with outstanding
writing ability, and then helping them to further improve
year since 1973, for example, Cummings Properties has
routinely required all applicants for any management-level
position to complete a standard written editing exercise.
The results of these exercises then weigh heavily in
all hiring decisions. The company has also routinely
brought in outside writing instructors to work with
employees of all levels in regular after-hours writing
is not at all unlike the "enlightened self interest"
policies so famously promoted by United Shoe Machinery
Corporation, Cummings Properties' predecessor in Beverly,
a hundred years ago. Like USMC, the Foundation strongly
supports the notion that it can positively affect the
education level of the area's workforce, simultaneously
helping it and its 1,800 tenant firms to be
to all previous McKeown Scholars, whose names can
be accessed below. As part of their selection process,
each student was required to write an essay under
exam conditions, on a subject not revealed to the
competing students until the start of the one-hour
subjects for the 16th essay competition were as follows:
"In a speech several years ago, United States Attorney General Eric Holder observed that while the workplace is largely integrated, Americans still self-segregate on the weekends and in their private lives. Holder stated, ‘Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.’ Do you agree or disagree with the attorney general and why?”
"Do you believe there is a generation gap? Describe the differences between your generation and others."