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Keene, William L. (1896-1975) | Eastern Kentucky University - Special Collections and Archives

Name: Keene, William L. (1896-1975)

Historical Note:

William Lee Keene was a professor of English at Eastern Kentucky University from 1926 until his retirement in 1965. He was born on April 3, 1896 in Lafayette, Tennessee to Henry and Alice Branford Keene. He attended Middle Tennessee College in Murfreesboro for three years before going on to George Peabody Teachers College in Nashville. There he received both his bachelor of science and his master of arts degrees. He completed two years of additional study at Peabody and served in the armed forces from 1917-1919.

Mr. Keene was noted for his genteel public speaking and was sought after for his expertise in offering tributes to deserving individuals. An annual event to select an outstanding female orator at Eastern has been named in his honor,"The W.L. Keene Oratorical Contest." His skills in writing are not to be overlooked. While he did not actively seek publication, many items he wrote have appeared in print. One of his poems, "Our Unreturning," has been set to music by Mr. Dean Gatwood. It was first performed by the Richmond Choral Society in 1986. A bibliography of his published work is included in these papers.

Mr. Keene was a very creative, sensitive, modest man. While he was not a joiner, he was very active on campus and in the community. He frequently served as a speaker during the weekly assembly programs on campus and was often asked to read the scripture during public gatherings. He was a member of the First Christian Church and the Kiwanis Club. For a great number of years he was faculty advisor to the staff of the Eastern Progress.

He married Mae Powell of Garrard County in 1929. They had two daughters Kathryn Kearns and Alice Garnache. Mrs. Keene was a teacher in the Training School at Eastern before her marriage. Mr. Keene died on October 3, 1975 following a short illness and was buried in the Richmond Cemetery.

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