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George C. Keller

The Baltimore Sun

George C. Keller, a longtime Dickeyville resident and educator who wrote widely about higher education, died Wednesday of leukemia at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. He was 78.

Mr. Keller was born and raised in Union City, N.J., the son of immigrants from Germany and Latvia. He left Columbia College after his first year and enlisted in the Navy, where he served as a radar specialist aboard the aircraft carrier USS Valley Forge.

He returned to Columbia, where he earned a bachelor's degree in government and political science in 1951. He earned a master's degree in political science in 1954 from Columbia University.

Mr. Keller was academic director for the Great Books Foundation in Chicago, where he was also a calligrapher, graphic designer and printer. While living in Oak Park, Ill., he established Acorn Press.

In the late 1950s, he returned to Columbia University as an instructor in political science. He was later promoted to assistant dean of the college and was editor of Columbia College Today, an alumni magazine.

From 1963 to 1965, the magazine won the Sibley Award from the American Alumni Council as the best alumni publication in the nation.

President Lyndon B. Johnson presented Mr. Keller with the U.S. Steel Foundation Award for distinguished service to higher education in a 1965 White House ceremony.

Newsweek magazine recognized him for excellence in education reporting in 1967, and the next year, Atlantic Monthly named him education writer of the year.

Mr. Keller left Columbia in 1969 after being named assistant to the chancellor of the State University of New York system in Albany, where he edited Search, a magazine that reported on the activities of the educational institutions that constitute SUNY.

In 1979, Mr. Keller moved to Baltimore and became an assistant to Dr. John S. Toll, chancellor of the University of Maryland System.

In 1981, he was co-author with Malcolm Moos of a long-range planning study for the university.

"He was a valuable assistant to me and clearly committed to excellence. His work was always well thought of, and he went on to a fine career after he left me," said Dr. Toll, who later was president of Washington College in Chestertown.

In the late 1980s, Mr. Keller was a strategic planner for the Barton-Gillet Co., a regional marketing and communications firm, before joining the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania in 1988.

From 1988 until 1994, when he retired, Mr. Keller commuted from his Dickeyville home to Philadelphia, where he was chairman of the department of higher education at Penn's graduate school of education.

After retiring, Mr. Keller worked as a writer and educational consultant to institutions and governments throughout the nation.

He was the author of Academic Strategy: The Management Revolution in Higher Education and Transforming a College, both published by the Johns Hopkins University Press, and Prologue to Prominence, published by Lutheran University Press.

While being treated for cancer during the past year, Mr. Keller finished his last book, Colleges, Universities, and the New Society, which will be published next year by Hopkins Press.

"His book Academic Strategy changed the perception of how higher education was viewed. He was very forward-looking and way ahead of his time and could see what the issues would be," said Jacqueline Wehmueller, a longtime friend and executive editor for consumer health, history of medicine and education at Hopkins Press.

"He was a great raconteur and conversationalist who told wonderful stories. He had humor and a natural insight into human nature," Ms. Wehmueller said. "He was a fabulous writer, and everything I got from him was beautifully written and well thought out."

Mr. Keller was a well-known figure in Dickeyville, where each Fourth of July for years, including last year, he presented a patriotic declaration to village residents from the steps of a church.

Services are private.

Surviving are his wife of 31 years, the former Jane Eblen, writer in residence at the University of Baltimore; a son, the Rev. Bayard Faithfull of New York City; a daughter, Coby Keller of Leverett, Mass.; and two grandsons. An earlier marriage to the former Gail Faithfull ended in divorce.


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