In memoriam: Dr Arthur Keaveney

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We were saddened to learn of the passing of Dr Arthur Keaveney in June. Dr Keaveney was a member of staff from 1979-2014 in the Department of Classical & Archaeological Studies. Victoria Cole (Rutherford 2011-2014: Classical & Archaeological Studies) wrote the following upon hearing the news. 

I write this today as this is the day I found out one of my favourite lecturers passed away back in June. I only found out now as I graduated six years ago so it’s difficult keeping up with current university news.

I first want to send my condolences to his wife and family. His wife’s moving memorial sums up a truly great and brilliant man.

I want to speak for his students and the sheer amount of us that he inspired with his passion and intellect. I sit here crying for a truly brilliant academic who was my personal tutor so I want to tell you my story of this wonderful man but also how he influenced all of us.

I didn’t actually meet him till third year when I sat in the admin office not knowing what on Earth I was going to do when I needed to swap modules. I wanted to take his Persian Empire module but I needed to have taken previous classes which I didn’t have. Elaine called him down and assured me that he may seem scary but he had the heart of a kitten. I’m sorry Professor Keaveney, but she was right!

I will never forget him asking for my previous grades and saying I didn’t seem stupid so why not! Join his class. So I did, and I’m so happy that I did. For those who know me, know I love Herodotus. It is thanks to Professor Keaveney’s remarkable teaching that inspired that love. He did more than that though, Ancient History is still my passion thanks to Professor Keaveney.

On paper, students summarising passages from ancient literature may sound dull but his classes were anything but dull. We would laugh, discuss and debate so that the hours would fly by. Professor Keaveney was a teacher who encouraged individual thought to the point I said to him I didn’t agree with his essay question and he laughed but then said “Go for it, prove me wrong!” I didn’t quite manage but he applauded the effort.

He may of appeared stern to those who didn’t know him but his humour and love for his students shone through. He loved showing us his photos from his dream trip to Iran but most of all sharing his love of Ancient History.

As a professor he was always fair, if you worked then he would always help and respect you. We even got out of doing presentations with PowerPoint because if he didn’t do it then so we shouldn’t. However Professor Keaveney didn’t need picture presentations to keep us captivated, he could do that all himself.

In that first meeting I spoke of my fears of taking on his class as I have dyslexia. He reassured me that those fears were nothing to worry about and thanks to his dedicated teaching I passed his module with a First. This will be one of my proudest moments.

My final year was the year Professor Keaveney retired. Our small but fantastic school knew what a loss this was to the department and I am forever grateful to be one of his last students. I had the honour to attend his staff retirement party and to send a truly inspirational teacher off to a happy retirement.

I will never forget the speech that the wonderful Professor Karla Pollmann gave in which she said that if an academic’s books are cheap then you know you’ve been successful. How right she was as I look at my Professor Keaveney Persian book sitting proudly on my Classics shelf as student budgets rarely stretch to £200 books.

I’m a proud University of Kent alumni and truly loved the Classical & Archaeology school. We were small but a dedicated bunch due to remarkable teachers like Professor Keaveney. I wouldn’t have graduated with a First without him.

This year has taken so much from all of us and today I feel a profound loss. This great man was a husband, brother, uncle, colleague and friend to many but to me he will always be Professor Keaveney. A truly remarkable teacher, inspiration to so many of us as without him our only knowledge of the Persians would be just the film 300. He taught us well and believed in every student.

I hope that when things get back to a semblance of normal that his students can go to the British Museum, head straight for the Persian history section and think of him but also to thank him.

So from every student that was lucky enough to call him Professor. I say thank you. You’ll be missed and the Classical academic world has grown darker with your loss.

Rest in Peace, Professor Keaveney.

By Victoria Cole (BA Hons Classical & Archaeological Studies 2014)