Southern Adventist University Names School of Business After Bakery Co-founder

It is the second Ruth McKee building on campus after the institution library.

Southern Adventist University News
Southern Adventist University Names School of Business After Bakery Co-founder
McKee family members join Southern Adventist University business professors at the ceremony announcing the name of the school of business. [Photo: Southern Adventist University]

Officials from Southern Adventist University and McKee Foods Corporation gathered on July 20 at the McKee Foods campus to announce the naming of Southern’s School of Business after Anna Ruth (King) McKee. The new campus building that will house the business program will also carry her name. Known as Ruth, she and her husband, O.D. McKee, co-founded McKee Foods Corporation, best known as the maker of Little Debbie snacks. Both were students at Southern, which is located in Collegedale, Tennessee, United States.

“Our goal is that each student who graduates from the new Ruth McKee School of Business will embody the core of Ruth’s leadership of McKee Foods Corporation: integrity, wisdom, acumen, and beneficence,” Stephanie Sheehan, dean of the business school, said. “These qualities [that] transcend the ever-changing landscape of business were foundational to the caliber of Ruth and O.D.’s legacy of business leadership, innovation, and success. We strive to encourage and equip Southern students to live and lead likewise.”

The McKees knew the value of hard work and discipline in achieving success in life. Where O.D. excelled in salesmanship, Ruth remained the constant presence in the early days of McKee Foods in personnel management, purchasing, transportation, and all other aspects of a growing business, all while raising a family that was growing as well.

Accomplishing all she did during the height of the Great Depression was further testament to Ruth’s character — a character she unfailingly demonstrated to everyone who knew her, from her family and friends to suppliers and employees.

“Ruth’s passion was always in teaching,” Mike McKee, CEO of McKee Foods and grandson of the founders, said. “It was this career she left behind to help launch the company, so I find it such a fitting tribute to give her name to Southern Adventist University’s School of Business where generations of business minds will be shaped by a top-notch educational institution that she loved so dearly.”

At the time of her death, she held the positions of director and senior vice president of Hamilton County’s largest manufacturing firm. The 42,000-square-foot (3,900-square-meter) building is the second building named for McKee family members, joining McKee Library. The Prayer Garden on campus is also dedicated to Ruth McKee.

About Southern Adventist University

Founded in 1892, Southern Adventist University provides a quality Christian education to approximately 3,000 students currently earning degrees ranging from associate to doctoral. Grounded in Jesus Christ and dedicated to the beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the university equips students to embrace biblical truth, embody academic and professional excellence, and pursue Spirit-filled lives of service. Identified in “Best Colleges” rankings for 21 consecutive years by U.S. News & World Report, Southern is also slated as one of the most diverse regional universities in the South. Southern welcomes community members to enjoy the university’s wellness center, vegetarian health food store, and nearly 40 miles of wooded trails on 1,300 acres (526 hectares).

About McKee Foods Corporation

McKee Foods Corporation, a family bakery with annual sales of about US$1.6 billion, is a privately held company based in Collegedale, Tennessee. The McKee Foods story began during the height of the Great Depression when founder O.D. McKee began selling five-cent snack cakes from the back of his car. Soon after, he and his wife, Ruth, bought a small bakery on Main Street in Chattanooga using the family car as collateral. Today, the company employs more than 6,700 people in Collegedale; Gentry, Arkansas; Stuarts Draft, Virginia; and Kingman, Arizona. It creates and produces Little Debbie baked goods, Drake’s cakes, Sunbelt Bakery snacks, and Fieldstone Bakery food products.

Southern Adventist University News