By Elizabeth Zakaim
The first time Dean William Keep set foot on New Jersey soil was as a 17-year-old Coast Guard recruit starting boot camp in Cape May. He never imagined that he would end up at the College, but he is grateful that he did.
Keep, who is currently the dean of the School of Business at the College, was named Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs on Feb. 6, according to a campus-wide email from College President R. Barbara Gitenstein. The announcement came shortly after a Jan. 31 email that explained that the College’s current provost, Jacqueline Taylor, intends to retire at the end of June.
Taylor’s accomplishments during her tenure include the revision of the College’s governance document, her work with diversity and inclusion and help with the development of the new STEM building, according to Gitenstein’s email.
As interim provost, Keep will be responsible for the academic programming involved in all seven academic schools, the library, global engagement, liberal learning and other academic programs at the College.
The change in the College’s presidential leadership will pose a new challenge of its own for Keep, whose job will not only include hearing from students, faculty and administration on academic issues, but also include aiding in the new president’s adjustment.
“My first day on the job will be this person’s first day on the job,” Keep said. “My job will be to continue to hear from faculty and students and administration … and at the same time try to help the new president become familiar with the culture.”
Keep is originally from Jackson, Michigan, and served four years in the U.S. Coast Guard. As a married veteran, he later earned his degree in social science and economics at Michigan State University’s James Madison College.
He also completed various internships with the State of Michigan Office of Intergovernmental Relations and the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C. After he graduated, he worked in the marketing department of an international trade association, according to Keep’s biographical sketch on the College’s School of Business website.
His undergraduate degree, however, was not enough to satiate his need for knowledge. In 1986, Keep went back to school for his PhD in marketing at the Eli Broad College of Business. His research can be found in publications including the Journal of Marketing, the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing and the Journal of Business Ethics, according to the College’s website.
He also worked at Quinnipiac University for 11 years, and served as associate provost there for three years, prior to his time at the College.
Keep felt his time in the Coast Guard helped prepare him for the sometimes hawkish atmosphere of the professional world. His thick skin helped him get through the challenges that come with the responsibility of his position in higher education.
“In an environment like the military you realize not to take everything personally –– there are things that have to be done and people who have to evaluate how you’ve done,” Keep said. “It may feel personal but it really isn’t –– if you let it get personal you can’t be productive.”
Moving forward, one of Keep’s main goals is to make sure that student’s voices are heard. He was made aware through Twitter of Student Government’s recent decision against establishing a “smart casual” dress code.
“To me, there must be some solution where a young person can have access to professional dress even though their family situation may not allow that,” Keep said. “Those are little things, but they’re important.”
Keep has served as dean of the School of Business since 2009. Under his leadership, the School of Business has been regularly recognized as one of the top 100 business schools for undergraduates, according to Businessweek. He looks fondly back on his time as dean, which he described as the highlight of his career.
“We have had a positive culture here and I think I’ve helped build that and I’ve had help along the way,” Keep said. “This has been a really great nine years.”