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William Myron Keck II, grandson of legendary wildcatter, dies at 72

May 23, 2014 - 6:29am

William Myron Keck II, the grandson of legendary wildcatter William Keck Sr. who helped lead two family philanthropies, died May 7 at his Los Angeles home after a long illness. He was 72.

His death was confirmed by his wife, Nicole Grace Keck.

Keck’s family fortune sprang from Superior Oil, which his grandfather founded in the early 1920s after striking oil in Huntington Beach, Calif., and built into the nation’s largest independent oil producer. The senior Keck established the W.M. Keck Foundation, one of the nation’s largest philanthropic organizations, which has funded such major medical and scientific endeavors as the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii and the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.

Keck was a director and vice president of his grandfather’s foundation and president of the W.M. Keck Jr. Foundation, named for his father.

Although the Keck family name appears on many prominent institutions, Keck himself “hated the spotlight,” his wife said. “He wanted to stay simple.”

He had a strong interest in public policy and became a major benefactor of the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washing-ton, D.C., where he endowed a chair.

“He wanted to name it not for himself or anything Keck but for Reginald Jones, the famous CEO of GE before Jack Welch,” said C. Fred Bergsten, the institute’s founding director. “It was quite a statesman-like thing to do. He idolized Reg Jones.”

An only child, Keck was born in Los Angeles on Dec. 16, 1941.

Besides his wife, he is survived by three children from a previous marriage, William, Theodore and Stephen.