Remembering David Keller
Nancy Peterson, Professor
David left quite a bit of voicemail on my office phone, and I grew to love his messages. He didn’t seem put-off by my old school and overly conservative ways, my old-fashioned assumptions, or my hesitancy to add to public intellectual conversations. David was always receptive of my written ideas, so one day I felt brave. As a panel respondent, I took courage from his invitation, and said my piece. There. My fairly radical opinion was out. Later that day David left voicemail telling me that my words had helped him look at my issue in a new light. I saved his very validating message, and listened to it just about daily for a month! Encouraged by that voicemail, I began, at least occasionally, to venture out of my office/isolation. I began attending, all by myself, some of the events sponsored by the Center for Ethics. I got (conservatively) involved. I started really listening to the ideas, words, and speeches of David’s friends and associates. In my mind, I became a student of David Keller’s. He became my mentor. Our correspondence was mostly through voicemail. Yes, I grew to love David’s messages. And in no time at all, I grew to love the messenger.
Professor of Integrated Studies,
Philosophy and Humanities
In early December, just weeks before the death of David Keller, we published the following on the blog of our chapter of the American Association of University Professors (http://uvu-aaup.blogspot.com):
In honor of a founding member, a fierce advocate for academic freedom, a skilled organizer, a past President, and a valued colleague, we, the members of the UVU Chapter of the AAUP, have renamed the Chapter: The David R. Keller Chapter of the AAUP at UVU.
Our decision to rename the chapter in honor of David Keller is meant as a statement about a tradition David helped establish and that he has kept viable for a decade and a half.
One highlight in this history was David’s work to bring Cary Nelson, then President of the National AAUP, to campus. Cary spoke forcefully and intelligently to audiences that included AAUP members, members of the UVU Senate, members of the faculty, students, and most of the UVU Administration. Discourse about academic freedom will never be the same on our campus.
Most significant, however, has been David’s work in behalf of members of the UVU faculty who, variously, have been denied due process in decisions of tenure and promotion and dismissal. In the name of our chapter, David argued various cases skillfully and forcefully. For those whose cases were reheard and for whom positive decisions resulted, this was critical intervention. And even those cases that were lost were meaningful as they further established the principle that questionable decisions will be challenged.
Our chapter proudly continues this tradition of shared governance, of faculty solidarity, of due process, and most essentially, of academic freedom.
We are deeply saddened by the loss of Dr. David Keller. He had many friends and appreciative associates among the philosophy faculty and students at BYU. He was a kind, committed philosopher who blessed the lives of his many students and colleagues, and he will be profoundly missed. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to his family and loved ones.
Dr. Travis Anderson
Chair, Department of Philosophy
Brigham Young University
The last time I spoke in person to David was last October, 22nd. He called me to ask me to take over chairing a meeting of the Philosophy and Humanities Dept. Rank Tenure and Promotion committee, of which he was the chair, the following day. This was about a week after he received his terminal diagnosis. He was clearly far far more concerned with the meeting tomorrow, which he would be unable to attend, and with the committee’s work of helping two of his colleagues through the tenure process, than he was with his situation. This was so typical of David. He was a consummate academic, an exemplary colleague who dedicated his life to the enrichment of his students, his department, his University, and the profession of philosophy, and he was a very dear friend. I shall miss him greatly.
Dr. Pierre Lamarche
Department of Philosophy and Humanities
Utah Valley University
Thirteen years ago as an undergraduate student I approached David (more or less out of the blue) and, after explaining my thin set of qualifications, asked if I could be his research assistant. It was an absurd gamble, and I had little hope of a positive response from him. David looked at me, and in his great booming voice said, “YES, LUKE, THAT WOULD BE EXCELLENT!” He continued to take unwise chances with me, letting me organize symposia, conferences, and an entire lecture series on behalf of the Ethics Center. When I decided to pursue an LDS mission, David sent me off with his secular blessing. One of my most vivid mission memories is of sitting on a hill overlooking Florence, and unwrapping a long parcel from David. Inside I found a hideous Jerry Garcia tie, and an attached yellow sticky note that read: ‘ONWARD, SAINT LUKE!’
The tie (and sticky note) are among my most prized possessions.
For a dozen years David took chances on me for no good reason other than his unflinching faith in the boundless potential of his students. I owe David more than I can say for giving me the high wire, the pole, and for taking away the net. Now, I can only hope to repay him by emulating that same unwavering faith in the students who approach me with short resumes and grand ambitions to change the world.
Corporate & Community Partnerships
Utah Valley University
No one I have ever met was both so dedicated to student development and could dance so well.
Adam Wilson, UVU philosophy student
Dr. Philip Gordon, Professor of Communication, UVU
I met David the day interviewed at UVU (then UVSC) in 1999. Right away I knew I was talking to a real intellectual (passionate, opinionated) who would make a great colleague.
He created a lot of opportunities for me to present my research and writing in campus forums—really he’s the primary reason I became part of the intellectual community on campus because he was always organizing events, inviting me to present, coming to my presentations, and giving me terrific feedback after.
We served on the Strategic Directions Committee together and were the two faculty firebrands pushing hard for a short-lived victory of reducing the standard teaching load for professors on campus. He also supported me through some difficult travails during my tenure here. What an ally and friend—the kind of guy you’d want at your side in the worst of the worst situations, and also in the best of the best times.