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Antonia Keane, Loyola professor and Pratt trustee, dies

Mary Antonia “Toni” Keane, a retired Loyola University sociology professor, trustee of the Enoch Pratt Free Library and former chair of the Baltimore Community Relations Commission, died in her sleep Tuesday at her Canton home. She was 77.

Her son, Christopher K. Bowen, said a cause of death was not available.

Born in Baltimore and raised on East Hoffman Street, she was the daughter of William J. Klima, a National Brewing Co. worker, and Dorothy Uhl, a homemaker.

She was a 1960 graduate of Eastern High School, and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree at what is now Towson University and a master’s degree at San Jose State University. She also studied at the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Michigan.

Former Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a friend of Ms. Keane’s for 50 years, recalled their first meeting during the 1968 Baltimore riots.

“We were both living at the same apartment building and she invited me over,” Ms. Mikulski recalled. “I brought a TV dinner and a can of diet grape soda. She gave me a shot of gin. We became friends on the spot.”

Ms. Keane became Ms. Mikulski’s campaign manager in 1971 when the future senator “beat the machine” to win a seat on the City Council.

“Toni was committed to young people and students. She had a devotion to the Pratt Library, which she served long and well,” said Ms. Mikulski. “She was a witty person and delivered some of the best one-liners ever. She was smart and was always up on the issues.

“She knew and loved Baltimore and was a Baltimore original.”

Ms. Keane joined the faculty of what is now Loyola University Maryland in 1969 and was chair of the sociology department from 1972 to 1975. She was a visiting professor at Towson University and an instructor at Notre Dame University of Maryland.

“She was generous and open to fun. She was one of the wittiest persons I’ve met,” said Carol Nevin “Sue” Abromaitis, a Loyola colleague. “Her classes were popular and she held students up to a standard she set.”

Ms. Keane received an education in East Baltimore politics in Ms. Mikulski’s 1971 campaign, then decided to run for the City Council herself in 1975. She picked up a Baltimore Sun endorsement as a Democratic candidate, but ran unsuccessfully in a primary election of 16 candidates.

In 1972 she was named to a seat on the city’s Community Relations Commission. She was later served as its chair.

“She [is] an effusive watchdog for the feminist cause and ethnic America,” stated a 1972 article in The Sun.

While she failed to win elected office, Ms. Keane flourished in governmental service. She was co-chair of the Baltimore City Council Task Force on Rape from 1975 to 1979, and chair of the Governor’s Commission on Juvenile Justice from 1979 to 1982.

She was a consultant to the U.S. Department of Justice and lectured at the Baltimore City Police Academy. She was also a special consultant to the Baltimore City Police Department's Youth Division.

Gov. Harry Hughes appointed her to two terms on the Judicial Nominating Commission, and she served on legal services committees of the Baltimore City Bar Association and the University of Maryland School of Law.

Ms. Keane was named to the Board of Trustees of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in 1982, and was serving as its vice president at her death. She also on the library’s board of directors for much of that time.

"Toni Keane’s passing has left a void on the Enoch Pratt Free Library Board that we will not be able to fill,” said Chairman Benjamin Rosenberg. “We have lost her phenomenal sense of humor, her knowledge of Baltimore and its quirks, her exceptional intelligence and, most of all, her incredible common sense."

Mr. Bowen, her son, said: “Her time at the library was one of her true callings. She was an educator through and through and believed in libraries. She was focused on the modernization of libraries and bringing them into the 21st century. She was very proud when a new Highlandtown branch opened.”

“Baltimore was her life. She was one of its biggest advocates,” he said. “She was a real civic giver.”

Ms. Keane lectured widely. At the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, she spoke on "Building Black-Ethnic … Political Coalitions” and at the Maryland Women's Correctional Facility at Jessup, she spoke on "The Battered Woman and Murder." At the Johns Hopkins School of Allied Health Services, she spoke on "Rape: A Sociological Perspective."

For many years she was a panelist on the WJZ-TV show “Square Off.” She was also a member of the Hamilton Street Club, where she enjoyed lunches and conversation.

“My mother loved discussion and intellectual discourse,” her son said.

In 1986, Loyola University named her its Distinguished Teacher of the Year.

A Mass of Christian burial will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Alumni Memorial Chapel at Loyola University, 4501 N. Charles Street.

In addition to her son, an attorney who lives in New York City, survivors include a brother, William Klima of Eldersburg; and two granddaughters, Claire and Eleanor Bowen. Her husband, Baltimore Circuit Court Judge John Prevas, died in 2010. Two previous marriages ended in divorce.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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