J. E. Keeny

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John Ephraim "J. E." Keeny​

6th President of Louisiana Tech University in Ruston
In office
1908​ – 1926​
Preceded by Clifton Ellis Byrd, Sr.
Succeeded by John R. Conniff​

Born December 24, 1860
Carlisle, Cumberland County
Pennsylvania, USA

Former resident of ​ Newton, Kansas
Lake Charles, Louisiana
Natchitoches, Louisiana
​ Ruston, Louisiana
Alexandria, Louisiana

Died October 1, 1939 (aged 78)​
Pineville, Rapides Parish,
Spouse(s) Prudence Keeny (married 1885)​
Children Pearl Keeny ___

Roy Keeny ​

Alma mater Shippensburg University​

Juniata College
​ Ohio Northern University​

John Ephraim Keeny, known as J. E. Keeny (December 24, 1860 – October 1, 1939), was a pioneer educator who served from 1908 to 1926 as the sixth president of Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, Louisiana.


​ Keeny was born in Carlisle in Cumberland County in south central Pennsylvania to J. G. Keeny and the former Lyndia Sollenbarger, He was reared and educated in his early years in Boiling Springs, also also in Cumberland County. He attended Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, then known as State Normal College, located near the capital city of Harrisburg. He also for a time attended the Brethren's Normal College for Teacher Training, since known as Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. Keeny also attended Ohio Northern University, now a United Methodist institution in Ada, Ohio, at which he studied music. His biographical sketch does not list the degrees earned or the dates, only the institutions attended.[1][2]

In 1885, Keeny married Prudence Keedy [3] of Maryland. They had two children, Pearl (born 1887) and Roy (born 1889). In 1886, Keeny operated a mercantile store in Newton in Harvey County in central Kansas. He then sold school supplies in Illinois.[1]

Louisiana educator

Between 1889 and 1900, Keeny was the principal of various schools in Lake Charles, Monroe, and New Iberia, Louisiana. It is unclear what prompted his relocation from Illinois to Louisiana. As a principal, Keeny conducted in-service programs in an effort to improve the skills of teachers. Keeny and the Louisiana historian Henry E. Chambers of New Orleans were promoters of the traveling Chaut, headquartered in upstate New York.[1] Another Chautauqua booster in Louisiana was Thomas Duckett Boyd, the president of Louisiana State University from 1896 to 1926.[4]

In 1900, Keeny was appointed to the faculty of Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana; his biographical sketch does not give his field of specialization. In 1904, he was appointed to a state position to promote the improvement of qualifications for Louisiana teachers.,[1] an issue also important to Boyd, who was the NSU president from 1888 to 1896[4] In 1908, he succeeded Clifton Ellis Byrd, Sr.), the namesake of the first publich high school in Shreveport, as the president of Louisiana Industrial Institute, which had been established in 1894 in Ruston. It was renamed in 1921 as Louisiana Polytechnic Institute and in 1970 as the current Louisiana Tech University. Keeny improved standards for the institution, which he served until 1926, when he became president of Baptist Hospital (later Rapides General Hospital) in Alexandria, Louisiana. In his last years, he sustained business reverses. In 1938, he was named president emeritus of Louisiana Tech.[1]

Death and legacy

​ Keeny died in Pineville in Rapides Parish across the Red River from Alexandria.[1] Keeny Hall, the administration building for Louisiana Tech, is named in his honor.[1] It was formerly called Leche Hall but renamed for Keeny because of scandals in the administration of its previous namesake, Governor Richard Leche of New Orleans. The administration building was completed during the term of president E. S. Richardson, namesake of another campus building.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Keeny, John Ephraim. Louisiana Historical Association: A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography (lahistory.org). Retrieved on January 28, 2020.
  2. A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography bases this article on Rodney Cline, Builders of Louisiana Education (1963).
  3. It is unclear if Mrs. Keeny's maiden name was "Keedy" or if "Keedy" is misspelled here, probably the latter. If so, the maiden name is not given.
  4. 4.0 4.1 John F. Ohles, ed. (1978). Biographical Dictionary of American Educators, Vol. I: Thomas Duckett Boyd. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishers. ISBN 0-8371-9893-3. Retrieved on January 28, 2020. 

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