Tom Kean, the 48th Governor of New Jersey, comes from some of the United State’s most storied families. The family of his father, Robert Winthrop Kean, includes John Kean, Tom’s great-great-grandfather, who served as a delegate from South Carolina to the Continental Congress and as the first Cashier of the Bank of the United States. His great-uncle, Hamilton Fish, was a U.S. Senator, Governor of New York and U.S. Secretary of State. His great-uncle John was U.S. Senator from New Jersey from 1899 to 1911 and served two separate terms in the United States House of Representatives, from 1883 to 1885, and from 1887 to 1889. His mother, the former Elizabeth Stuyvesant Howard, was a member of the Stuyvesant family established in this country by Peter Stuyvesant, the Dutch colonial governor of Nieuw Amsterdam, which eventually became New York City. His grandmother, Katharine Winthrop, was a direct descendant of John Winthrop, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Governor Kean worked tirelessly to create his own path. After graduating from Princeton and Columbia universities, he began his career as an educator and journalist before entering politics. In 1967, Kean, a Republican, was elected to the New Jersey General Assembly. He lost his 1977 bid for New Jersey Governor, but won the election in 1981 and again in 1985. He is held in high regard for his passion for promoting education reform and protecting New Jersey’s natural resources. He always will be remembered for the iconic tourism commercial in which he proclaimed, “New Jersey and you. Perfect together.”
Following his second term, Kean served as President of Drew University for 15 years, retiring in 2005. In 1997, he was appointed as an Advisory Board member of President Clinton’s One America Initiative, designed to ease domestic racial tension. Kean stepped onto the global stage in 2002, when President George W. Bush selected him as Chairman of the 9/11 Commission, which was responsible for investigating the causes of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and providing recommendations to prevent future terrorist attacks. In 2004, the Commission concluded that the 9/11 terror attacks could have been prevented, laying blame in part with the CIA and FBI.
In 2004, Kean and fellow Commissioner Lee H. Hamilton published a book, Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission. Kean and his wife, Deborah, have three children, New Jersey State Senator Tom Kean, Jr., Reed, and Alexandra. Today, Kean serves on a number of corporate boards and charitable organizations. Kean and his dear friend, former Governor — and NJ Hall of Fame member Brendan Byrne — share good-natured, topic-driven banter and analysis of the state in The Star-Ledger.
In 1958, Newark State College moved from Newark to the Kean family estate in Union Township. In 1973, Newark State was named Kean College of New Jersey in honor of the Kean family; it attained university status in 1997.