Leila McKee was born in 1858, the daughter of John Lapsley McKee, for twenty-five years vice-president and a professor at Centre College. McKee graduated from Caldwell College in 1876 and Western Female Seminary in Oxford, Ohio, in 1877. She then attended Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, for two years, returning to Danville to attend Centre College for her final two years. McKee and fellow classmate Margaret Randolph received a BA degree from Centre in 1883 by a special act of the college's trustees. McKee then taught at Caldwell for two years, returned to Wellesley for one year to earn a BA degree in 1886, and then resumed teaching at Caldwell for two more years. In 1888 she was selected as the second president of the Western Female Seminary. McKee's presidency were some of the most important years for the institution. The Seminary became the Western College for Women, a four-year liberal arts college for women modeled on Mt. Holyoke College. New courses were added, as were male teachers. Alumnae Hall was built in 1892 and a dorm in 1905, later renamed McKee Hall. In 1904 McKee resigned and married James B. Welsh of Kansas City. In Kansas City, she continued her interest in women's education, serving as a trustee for Western College for Women from 1909 to 1933 and a member of the American Association of University Women. She died in Kansas City in 1938. Her obituary noted that McKee was not only a leader, but an effective creator of new standards during an important transitional period of higher education for women. In 1892 Centre College awarded McKee an honorary Ph.D., the first women to be so recognized.