Finding Meaning in His Work

Patrick Keefe, CFO of the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund, on lifelong learning as an executive.

I grew up in Medford, Wis. wanting to be a teacher. Most people know this area in north central Wisconsin because Tombstone Pizza comes from there and Camp Forest Springs, a well known Christian camp, is nearby.  

I earned a bachelor’s in business administration in accounting from UW-Eau Claire in 1983, and then got a job at Price Waterhouse in Milwaukee. I moved back to Medford to help my dad close his business in the late 1980s, and then took a job in Wausau for 3 years, then Price Waterhouse in early 1990s, then New York, then Milwaukee, then Chicago. By now we had 4 children, my marriage was hanging by a thread, and it was time to invest in my family and stop moving around in a vain attempt to find my identity in my career.  It is no coincidence that this is also the time in my life in which I received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and found my identity in Him.

We moved back to Wausau in 1996 and raised the kids there. They all graduated from high school in Wausau, and 3 of the 4 came to Bethel. Two have graduated and one is a senior.

I worked in executive positions in for-profits for many years. I grew up in that world, since my father was a business owner. In privately held companies, you work for a family or an individual or a group of people, and for me it just wasn’t fulfilling. After we moved to Minnesota, I was working with a placement agency to find another position, and I ended up getting hired in my current position.

I currently work in the not-for-profit sector. I was looking for a position that had more purpose and meaning. I have always been on the fringe of liberal social justice causes, and this job is a way to make a difference in the world. In some ways, it seems closer to the “true religion” described in James 1:27. Someday, I would also love to work full-time for a faith-based organization...after I pay off my Parent Loans in 40 or 50 years.

I find meaning in my work every day. I take my cues from Micah 6:8:
“He has shown you, oh man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you. But to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” You can be called to the business world, but there are hard days when you wonder why you are there. This verse helps keep me grounded and remind me not to try to separate the secular from the sacred in my everyday life.

Even as an experienced executive, the Bethel MBA appealed to me because one is never too old to learn.  Many of the MBA instructors integrate faith in Christ with a rigorous business curriculum.  I was often somewhat skeptical that one could be called to the business world, but have been wonderfully surprised to have it confirmed through the MBA program.

I have learned a great deal in the MBA program. My cohort is made up of both younger and older people. I am able to get into the hearts and minds of a younger generation, and hopefully they get to see and hear what goes on in an executive’s heart and mind...albeit an unusual one. None of my children hear the call to business, but my son-in-law is also in the MBA program a year behind me.

My life has come full circle. I grew up interested in teaching, but my dad told me I couldn’t raise a family on a teacher’s salary. He was right about most things, but he was so wrong about making a career decision based solely on earning potential. I am hoping to teach once I finish my MBA and finally fulfill my lifelong dream. More recently, my own son (who is a senior at Bethel) expressed a desire to be a teacher. After spending 8 years on the school board in Wausau, Wis., and a lifetime wishing I had made a different decision, I knew what to tell him…”Go where you are called and trust God to provide.”

More info about Patrick
Major
MBA
School
Graduate School
Hometown
Inver Grove Heights, MN
Interests
Running, reading, the Green Bay Packers, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives