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John G. Kneen

Died: November 13, 2015

John was born and raised in Pretoria, South Africa, where he attended a British-style boarding school through elementary and high school, where he excelled academically. In 1962, he accepted a scholarship offer from Yale and came to the United States for the first time. At Yale he majored in economics, was a member of Morse College and Zeta Psi fraternity, and graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 1966. He next received a full fellowship from the Columbia University School of Business, where he majored in marketing and graduated in 1968.

While a student at Columbia, John worked part-time for New York Mayor John Lindsay’s task force for development in Harlem. In addition, in a joint venture with a New York based magazine, he led a study of corporate recruiting practices at eight leading M.B.A. campuses. The results of this study were extensively written up in the Wall Street Journal, and the high-priced report was purchased by most of the leading recruiters of M.B.A.s at that time. As a result, John graduated with his M.B.A. not only debt free but with a substantial nest egg to start his business career.

After graduation, John joined the New York office of the national consulting firm Cresap, McCormick and Paget. He also met the love of his life, Pat Haley, who after graduation from college had moved to New York from Sioux City, Iowa to join TWA as a flight attendant. They married In December 1969.

In 1971 John and Pat moved to Johannesburg, South Africa, where John’s parents and siblings lived. John joined a major local bank there and rapidly moved into its senior management ranks. As the racial divide widened In South Africa, and civil unrest increased, John and Pat made the decision to leave South Africa. They returned to New York in 1978, where John joined Towers Perrin, a large global consulting firm. At Towers Perrin (which coincidentally acquired Cresap, McCormick and Paget in 1982), John advised financial firms on how to take advantage of the changing regulatory climate to enter new markets. During these years he was a sought-after speaker on the changing financial services industry and was invited to speak at dozens of conventions throughout the U.S. and Europe.

In 1991 John was appointed to the position of managing director for foreign operations, in which position he was responsible for the firm’s relationship with its clients and also the world wide office network which covered twenty-one countries. He also served on the firm’s Board of Directors for his last 10 years at the firm. He and Pat traveled extensively during this time and were able to visit the world’s developed and rapidly developing countries to meet with clients and field based staff. John and Pat’s vacation travel during these years included annual game viewing trips to wildlife parks in East and Southern Africa, where John developed a deep interest in wildlife photography.

In 1998 John retired, and he and Pat moved to Corrales, New Mexico because of their affection for the diversity and friendliness of New Mexicans, the state’s wide open spaces and the sun-drenched climate. To reduce the shock of retirement and to give back to the country that had always been generous to him, John volunteered to teach without pay at the Anderson School of Business at UNM. For six years he carried a full time teaching load there, focusing on classes in international business and business strategy, He regarded the experience of working with approximately two thousand young New Mexicans in this classroom environment as one of the highlights of his life.

After retirement John also took up birding, focusing on birds of the western United States. By the time of his death his tally of new target birds he had seen and identified was well above four hundred. The Albuquerque Zoo was another abiding interest. John believed that the Albuquerque Zoo is a gem, and he delighted in paying for the zoo to transport in new arrivals. He helped bring in a number of charismatic zoo residents: Chopper the baby rhino (who was Fed-Ex’ed from Florida), Karen the hippo, Sarabi the lioness, Merlina the jaguar, and a pair of military macaws.

John died in New Mexico after a difficult battle with stomach cancer.