Keaney was a longtime member of the classics department

By Eric Quiñones

Princeton NJ -- John Keaney, an esteemed Greek and Latin scholar who taught in Princeton's Department of Classics for 41 years, died April 21 after a brief illness. He was 70.

Keaney joined the Princeton faculty as a lecturer in classics in 1959 and remained in the department until his retirement in 2000. He was a generalist who taught courses on Greek and Latin language and literature, Greek drama, Plato, Aristotle and Homer. Keaney also wrote or edited several books on ancient Greek scholarship.

John Keaney
"He was above all a very devoted and very popular teacher, and at the same time a very serious scholar," said Robert Kaster, chair of the classics department. Kaster added that he has received several notes from former students reminiscing about their classes with Keaney, some from as many as 30 years ago.

"Keaney recognized the importance of retaining close attention to undergraduate education, especially during a period in which advanced study of Greek and Latin was becoming increasingly rare at the preparatory school level," Josiah Ober, a classics professor and former department chair, said at the time of Keaney's retirement.

Keaney played a central role in devising a classics curriculum that allowed Princeton undergraduate students "to move quickly through introductory Greek and Latin to the level at which reading an ancient author becomes a pleasure rather than a chore," Ober said. "His genuine pleasure in teaching the Greek and Latin languages and his dedication to maintaining high standards of undergraduate education in classics have been profoundly appreciated by four decades of Princetonians."

Keaney was promoted to assistant professor in 1963, associate professor in 1970 and professor in 1975. He was the department representative for classics for many years, served as director of graduate studies and was integral in the development of the departmental library.

Keaney was the author of "The Composition of Aristotle's Athenaion Politeia: Observation and Explanation" and "The Lexeis of Harpo- cration," both published in 1992. Books he edited or co-edited included "(Plutarch) De Homero: Essay on the Life and Poetry of Homer" (1996), "Homer's Ancient Readers" (1992) and "The Greek Prothetic Vowel" (1972).

Keaney also served on several University committees -- including those involving the library, Italian studies and humanistic studies -- and as a member of the Prospect Association Managing Board.

A 1953 graduate of Boston College, Keaney earned a master's in 1955 and a Ph.D. in 1959 from Harvard University.

After his retirement from Princeton, Keaney continued his research on Byzantine manuscripts, a longtime pursuit that involved many trips to the Vatican Library in Rome over the years.

Survivors include his wife of 45 years, Toni, of Princeton; daughter, Anne, of Princeton; son, John Jr., of Nashville, Tenn.; and son, Paul, of Westborough, Mass.

Services were held April 24 in the University Chapel. The Keaney family requests that anyone wishing to make a contribution in his memory consider the Aquinas Institute, Murray-Dodge Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544; or Hands Together, P.O. Box 3530, Princeton, NJ 08543.


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