1988 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Success is a journey, not a destination."
The son of a farmer and cattleman, Donald Keough was born in 1926 in a small town in Iowa. During the Great Depression, Keough's father lost most of his money in the cattle market. With a large mortgage on the farm property and no insurance, the family was forced to move when their home was accidentally destroyed in a fire. They began a new life in Sioux City. Remembering these difficult times, Keough says, 'It must have been devastating for my father, but he never showed it. He was a great role model for me.'
Don Keough's mother, who was caring and practical, directed him toward debate in high school. He won a number of oratorical contests and graduated at the age of 16. In 1944, he enlisted in the Navy, and spent two years serving in a rehabilitation center. After his discharge, he enrolled at Creighton University on the G.I. Bill. He graduated in 1949.
After working for a radio and television station, Keough became an advertising manager for a food company. In 1964, the business was acquired by the Coca-Cola Company, which merged in 1967 with Minute-Maid to form the Coca-Cola Company Foods Division. Keough served there as the vice president and marketing director. Within four years, he was president of the division.
In 1973, Keough moved to Coca-Cola's headquarters in Atlanta, where he served as executive vice president of Coca-Cola USA. A year later, he was named president. At the time of his Horatio Alger Award in 1988, Keough was Coca-Cola's president, chief operating officer, and director of the worldwide Coca-Cola Company. Of his steady rise up the corporate ladder, Keough says, 'You must work hard to grow as an individual, do your work as well as you can, and set standards of excellence for yourself. You don't just arrive at a place. You are in a constant process of trying, achieving, developing, and growing. Success is a journey, not a destination.'
Don Keough retired from The Coca-Cola Company in 1993. He currently serves as nonexecutive chairman of the board of Allen & Company Incorporated, a New York investment-banking firm. He also serves as a director of IAC/InterActiveCorp, Convera Corporation, Berkshire Hathaway Inc., YankeeNets LLC, and The Coca-Cola Company. He is chairman emeritus of the Board of Trustees and a Life Trustee of the University of Notre Dame.
Don Keough has received many honors in his career, including the University of Notre Dame's highest honor, the Laetare Medal. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2002, and was inducted into the Junior Achievement National Business Hall of Fame in 2003.
Of his membership in the Horatio Alger Association, Keough says, 'I am especially pleased with the growth of the scholarship program. Our momentum to reach youngsters who need our support is accelerating, which is a good thing.'
Keough advises young people to set short-term goals. 'That way, you get the joy of victory more often,' he says. 'Many people get frustrated because their goals are too big and they take too long to achieve. There is no substitution for hard work and passion for what you do.'