“Suddenly an Irish door has been opened in America, and across the country people with Irish in their blood have become not just more aware of it, but more interested in and proud of it.”
Don Keough represents something fundamental in Irish American business -– he is in many ways its chieftain, and his involvement has had huge economic benefits for the Emerald Isle.
He has used his position, first as president and COO of Coca-Cola and then as chairman of investment bank Allen and Company to tirelessly promote and encourage American involvement in Irish affairs, including in philanthropy and the peace process.
As one of the most highly respected figures in American business, his word on these issues carries major sway. As a typical example of his quiet business diplomacy he arranged for Microsoft chief Bill Gates, Berkshire Hathaway supremo Warren Buffet and other leading businessmen to first visit Ireland.
Keough’s love of Ireland and all things Irish has led to his continuing deep involvement in that country’s economic development, and he went on to serve on the Taoiseach’s (Irish Prime Minister) Economic Advisory Board, visiting Ireland several times in the process.
He is currently chairman of the board of Allen & Company, a New York investment banking company, having previously served as president of the Coca-Cola Company. He retired from Coca-Cola in 1993, after over 40 years of service.
A graduate of Creighton University and navy veteran, Keough has been awarded honorary doctorates from Trinity College Dublin, and is former chairman of the University of Notre Dame. When he retired as president and COO of Coca-Cola in 1993 (he would retain a seat on the board of directors), Don turned his focus to Notre Dame and, with an endowment of $2.5 million, established the Keough Institute of Irish Studies, and the Keough Notre Dame Centre in Dublin, Ireland.
Keough is a past recipient of the Laetare Medal, the highest award that can be bestowed by the home of the Fighting Irish. He has also been honored with the American Irish Historical Society’s medal in 1993.
In June, 2007, Donald Keough completed “The Long Journey home,” which began in the worst of times – the Famine era – with young Michael Keough striking out for the New Land, and ended with the best of times, with Donald, the Corporate Chieftain, whose success Michael could hardly have imagined, celebrating his Irish citizenship.
To his many accomplishments, he recently added best-selling author when his business book Ten Commandments for Business Failure cracked The New York Times Bestseller list.