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Posted:

October 19, 2017
J. Keith MacKenzie
J. Keith MacKenzie

Keith MacKenzie traces his own interest in gardening to his grandfather, a stonecutter-turned-gardener from Scotland who came to Chicago more than 100 years ago. MacKenzie gardens as an avocation, focusing now on flowers. Earlier he raised vegetables, selling them at a roadside stand, with proceeds going to the horticulture program at Century College.

Today at age 88, he hires horticulture students from Century College to assist him and his wife Barbara, who also loves to garden. They appreciate the help and the chance to get to know the students.

MacKenzie Horticulture Endowed Scholarship Fund supports three students each year

The Barbara B. and J. Keith MacKenzie Horticulture Scholarship at Century College has awarded scholarships to 23 students since 2006. The scholarships have increased from $500 per student to now over $1,500 per student. He has created a significant endowed scholarship and intends to keep giving gifts to increase the fund’s value, which also increases the capacity to distribute scholarships.

He adds, “As long as I live, I’ll support Century. There are very few times in life when you receive this much satisfaction from what you are doing. Giving feels good.”

Business opportunity led him to Minnesota

MacKenzie was born on the south side of Chicago in 1928, and grew up near Whiting, Illinois. He first came to Minnesota to attend college, and later returned in 1965 for an insurance salesperson opportunity with Mass Mutual in St. Paul. He moved his family with four children to White Bear Lake at that time and has remained here for 50 years.

Since semi-retiring in 1981, MacKenzie has served on numerous boards of directors including the Minnesota Horticultural Society and Century College Foundation.

MacKenzie gives to Century College to strengthen community

He says, “I support Century College Foundation because I feel strongly that people in this community helped me be successful in business, and it seems appropriate to give back in a way that strengthens the community. This school is right in our neighborhood.”

MacKenzie’s love of Century College began with a trip to an annual plant sale held on campus. He was deeply impressed by how the staff and faculty change lives in positive ways. “Most of the students I have met don’t yet realize their potential. They come to school not yet seeing their trajectory for success. It is exciting then to see them start to gain a vision of what they can do after graduating. The school has a great reputation for helping students prepare to support themselves in their chosen field. Their graduates become self-sufficient, capable members of our society.”

Over the years, MacKenzie has invited friends to Century College to see the range of educational programs and to meet students. “When people see the quality of the work at Century and how it changes lives, people want to open their pocketbooks in support of the mission.”

For more information about the Barbara B. and J. Keith MacKenzie Horticulture Scholarship, contact the Century College Foundation at 651-779-3338, or apply online.

Century College inspires, prepares, and empowers students to succeed in a changing world. Our vision is to be a national leader in transforming lives through an innovative, rigorous, and compassionate approach to education.

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Director of Alumni Relations, Foundation