Arthur J. "Art" Keown retires after a nearly five-decade career at Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech photo

After 49 years at Virginia Tech, Arthur J. Keown, a seasoned professional in the financial and collegiate educational sphere, is retiring.

Keown has always had a love for the classroom, fondly recalling the beginning of his educational career. “I wanted to be a high school teacher, but I loved college, so I kept getting degrees until there were no more to get.”

Before his time at Virginia Tech, Keown received his Bachelor of Science in economics from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1969. Continuing to enrich his background, he received his MBA from the University of Michigan in 1971 before then proceeding to receive his doctorate in business administration from Indiana University in 1974.

It was at Indiana University where Keown began his journey teaching. During his third and final year as a student, when a faculty member stepped down at the last minute, Keown was asked to teach a senior-level investments class. This impromptu assignment resulted in the first of many teaching awards for Keown.

In 1974, Keown was ready to take the next step in his career. After making a list of 20 schools where he felt he could relocate, his department head reviewed his list and recommended one school that he had not yet considered, Virginia Tech. While this university was not on his radar, his professor raved about how the “faculty was excellent” and that the Finance Department was impressive.

All the pieces began to fall into place, as he and his wife, Barbara, at the time newlyweds, were looking for a smaller town to settle in. Initially planning on staying only a few years, Keown fell in love with Virginia Tech, the research he was able to conduct, and most importantly to him, the students.

“The students here were so down-to-earth and hardworking. And the University, with its motto of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), fit with my goals and values,” Keown said, fondly recalling how special he found the institution, the faculty, and the students.

When Keown came to Virginia Tech, Finance was housed in the Department of Business Administration along with the other business disciplines. The format of the department created an environment where research done in respective disciplines tended to cross over, allowing Keown to play an active role in two national professional societies, the Decision Sciences Institute (DSI) and the Financial Management Association (FMA), with much of his initial research being in management and decision sciences. His involvement in the DSI allowed him to be selected as a DSI Fellow in 1987, one of the first 50 DSI Fellows out of nearly 3,500 members.

Keown’s publishing highlights include numerous articles in the top journals in Finance, including the Journal of Finance and the Journal of Financial Economics. He served on various editorial boards, including serving as the executive co-editor of the Journal of Financial Research for six years. In addition, he was the commencement speaker at two graduations and served as the department head for Finance on two separate occasions for a total of 12 years. With these accomplishments, he was also able to finally impress his mother-in-law with an appearance on NBC Nightly News discussing his research findings. 

A quick review of Keown’s service over the past 49 years clearly shows that his heart for both teaching and Virginia Tech is apparent and that Tech’s motto helped to guide his way. Helping students reach their goals was always his priority and was reflected in the numerous honors he received. Some of those teaching awards and honors include The Wine Award, the Alumni Teaching Excellence Award, the SCHEV Outstanding Faculty Award, the SGA Pylon Honor Award (the first-ever recipient), and Alumni Distinguished Professor. Recently, Keown was selected as class sponsor for the Class of 2021, a very special honor as he was chosen by the students.

Additionally, Keown served some notable roles at Virginia Tech, including faculty advisor to SEED, Virginia Tech’s student-managed endowment fund, chair of the Virginia Tech Services Board of Directors for 20 years, during which time Virginia Tech Services returned over $17 million to the university to benefit undergraduate students, and most recently, spearheading the Financial Literacy Program, which offers financial counseling and education for all Virginia Tech students. 

When he wasn’t in the classroom teaching, Keown spent his time authoring books. He has authored or co-authored six college textbooks, which have been translated into several languages and have been used all over the world.

“Teaching is a treat, and writing books is an extension of teaching,” Keown explained. “I like to take something that might be tough for someone to understand and make it as intuitive as possible so that when they finish, they have a true understanding that will last.”

Despite the various roles and accomplishments achieved by Keown, he is most proud of his family. He and his wife, Barbara, have two children and three granddaughters. He said that Blacksburg “is an absolutely great place to raise a family,” especially “if you have a good partner to share it with.”

Keown has been an exceptional addition to Virginia Tech, and it is safe to say that the Pamplin College of Business would not be where it is today without his dedication and brilliance. Vijay Singal, the department head for Finance and a colleague of Keown’s, emphasized how integral he has been.

“He’s really done everything you can expect someone to do, he’s a great researcher, he’s a great teacher, and he’s a great advocate for the business school.”

While he is looking forward to spending time with his family in retirement, a piece of Keown’s heart will always be at Virginia Tech. “I will miss it, in fact, I miss it already.”

Although he has closed his chapter teaching at Virginia Tech, Keown said he plans on staying in the Blacksburg area and was quick to add, “I have my season tickets!”

-       Written by Bella Shapiro