On March 30, at the Fairfield University General Faculty meeting, Dr. Michael Pagano delivered the following remarks:
Dr. James J. Keenan Jr.
Professor Emeritus, Communication
We wanted to have Jim’s picture here and share his wonderful smile at one last faculty meeting. Dr. James J.Keenan, Jr., our colleague and friend, died March 1, 2012 in Malmo, Sweden after a prolonged battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was surrounded by family and friends, including two of his sons and his second wife, Dr. Maria Aggestam, who has taught here at Fairfield and shared Jim’s passion for global education, international travel, and intercultural research.
Jim was born October 13, 1931, in New York City. He obtained his undergraduate degree from Manhattan College, a master’s degree from Fordham University and a Ph.D. in Industrial Psychology from Columbia University.
Jim was a father of five – four sons and a daughter, some of whom are graduates of this university – and a grandfather of three. He often spoke fondly of the many adventures he and his first wife, Bett Keenan, shared with their children as part of his international research projects. He is survived by his many relatives, here and in Sweden, as well as legions of both graduate and undergraduate students who worked with this true renaissance man during his 42 year-long career at Fairfield University.
Jim joined our faculty in 1967, first serving as a core faculty member in the Graduate School of Corporate and Political Communication, then embraced interdisciplinary collaboration by teaching in the Dolan School of Business and the College of Arts and Sciences, offering both Psychology and Communication courses. In the early 1990s, Jim joined the College’s Department of Communication, and we gratefully acknowledge his many valued and creative efforts to help the then newly-established department flourish. In early 2002, Jim partnered with Dean Edna Wilson of University College to create our off-campus graduate cohort program that helped 64 working men and women over a six-year period earn a Master’s Degree from Fairfield University. His entrepreneurial spirit contributed to the university’s income, but also to our commitment to serving a diverse student body. The success of this collaborative, innovative effort at graduate education provided the stimulus for the current on-site graduate program in Communication.
In addition to teaching undergraduate and graduate students here for 42 years and promoting the institutional mission in varied ways, Jim lectured internationally and published extensively on communication, psychology, organizational management, intellectual capital, ekistic ergonomics and business leadership topics. He also consulted for some of the major corporations of the 20th century and contributed to many historical achievements.
An accomplished industrial psychologist and consultant, Jim’s work and clients reflected his diverse interests. He chaired the Board of Scientific Advisors for Muzak and consulted for IBM, GE, Xerox, various Catholic agencies and Atari. He worked with the U.S. Navy, NASA and the White House on a number of projects. His work at Dunlap Associates in Darien included both commercial and government assignments, notably development work for the Minuteman missile system, pre-manned space missions, the design of the DC-10 cockpit and the commercial barcode. Jim was also a very talented wood worker and built a motorized, miniature carousel that Neiman Marcus considered manufacturing.
In 2009, the Department of Communication recognized Jim’s life-long commitment to teaching and scholarship by creating the annual, Professor James J. Keenan Award for Outstanding Achievement by a Communication Graduate Student.
Jim dedicated his life to helping students become successful, self-directed, life-long learners. He was a colleague and a friend and he will be missed. But Jim was truly a gifted storyteller and his ability to enthrall students and colleagues with his tales of adventures with Margaret Mead and Buckminster Fuller, or of contributing to NASA’s early designs will be long remembered. We hope that as you think of Jim and his contributions to our students and this institution you’ll remember his infectious smile – and the kind, generous, intellectually curious and good-humored spirit it reflected.
Occasionally in this space, we’ll pass along great reads we come across in the popular press that relate to our teaching and research. This past weekend, The New York Times had a helpful interview from the world of organizational communication – and a lesson that all of us in (or entering) the working world might find of use…
“Take out your business card and look at it. That business card will have more value if any one of you succeeds here, even if you’re not remotely a part of that success. You are not competing with each other in here. If you think you win when your idea wins out over your neighbor’s, that’s a pretty small gain. In fact, I would suggest that you help your neighbor’s ideas get better.
I would suggest that if you look at something and you have a better idea, that you generously give that idea to someone and make them better. Because if we all do that, we all win. The minute you’re the only good thing at this company, we’re done. So can you do it? Can you be that generous?” – Susan Credle, CCO of Leo Burnett USA