Historian named Honors College dean

Ralph Keen

Ralph Keen, history professor and chair of Catholic studies, has served as interim dean of the Honors College since August. — Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

Forward-thinking faculty member Ralph Keen has been named dean of the Honors College. His appointment is effective Aug. 16, pending approval by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.

The professor of history and Arthur J. Schmitt chair of Catholic studies has been interim dean of the college since August. He succeeds dean emerita Bette Bottoms, who returned to the faculty after six years as dean and one year as interim dean.

Keen, a renowned historian of early modern Europe, was the executive officer of UIC’s program in religious studies from 2014 to 2015.

“The Honors College is a national model for honors education in urban public research universities,” said Susan Poser, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. “We are fortunate to have someone of Dr. Keen’s background and experience to lead this college.”

After his appointment as interim dean last year, Keen oversaw changes in the college’s curriculum to benefit students.

“We are making it possible for students to do more honors-level work in their majors as well as giving them a chance to take more honors courses here in the Honors College,” he said.

Revisions will be implemented this fall.

“It was one of the biggest privileges of my career to serve these students this past year,” Keen added. “I’m tremendously honored.”

He looks forward to furthering the college’s success and working with faculty fellows, staff and students.

“There’s no reason the Honors College cannot be the national leader in honors education in the urban-serving sector,” Keen said. “What this means for us here in Burnham Hall is that we need to stay focused on delivering the highest quality education possible to a student body that is probably the most diverse honors community in the country.”

Keen received a bachelor’s degree Greek studies from Columbia University in 1979. He earned a master’s in classics from Yale University in 1980 and his Ph.D. in the history of Christianity from the University of Chicago in 1990.

He has authored two books, Divine and Human Authority in Reformation Thought and Exile and Restoration in Jewish Thought, and a textbook, The Christian Tradition. He’s also edited and translated five other books.

He taught at Alaska Pacific University, the Harvard Divinity School and the University of Iowa, where he was also a director of undergraduate studies and an honors advisor, before joining UIC in 2010.

He’s been involved with the Honors College since then, serving as a fellow, Honors Council member and co-chair, member of the college’s strategic planning committee and a member of the diversity committee.

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