Art Keown: A Lifetime Investment in Teaching
August 22, 2016
At the core of the Department of Finance in the Pamplin College of Business is one of the College’s long-standing working trains. He seems to be tireless and is most definitely committed, and now he is being recognized for those traits.
Dr. Arthur “Art” Keown has been recommended and selected by the university committee and Executive Vice President and Provost Thanassis Rikakis for the ten-year appointment of Alumni Distinguished Professor (ADP).
The ADP is a distinguished faculty appointment recognizing both academic citizenship and outstanding service within the Virginia Tech community overall.
“I always wanted to teach. I always thought I would be a high school teacher, but when I went to college I really enjoyed taking classes,” Keown said. “I just kept on working and ended up here at Virginia Tech. We were a much smaller university at the time. They have treated me very well and I have absolutely loved my job.”
During an extensive nomination and vetting process for the ADP distinction, many facets of Keown’s life and career were acknowledged. He was directed to put together a candidate statement on several aspects such as research, professional and university service, and of course, teaching.
“I’m very lucky that the subject that I teach is so interesting,” he noted. “For many students you find that they have avoided finance or anything mathematical for a lot of their life, and unlocking it for them and allowing them to realize that this is not untouchable – that they can do it – is amazing. I like that an awful lot.”
For the past 15 years, Keown has been the primary instructor in the junior-level introductory course in finance. As he finishes up his 42nd year as a faculty member at Virginia Tech, he is continuing to teach while simultaneously leading a campus-wide mission to boost students’ financial literacy.
“I love Tech, but one of the things that we really need to do is create a financial literacy and financial wellness program here. Some of these students take on so much in student debt and get into so many financial problems, and somehow we need to be proactive and try to take care of that,” he explained.
In efforts to make this mission a reality, Keown has developed a proposal for a Multifaceted Financial Literacy and Financial Wellness Program, based off of research of an existing program at another university.
“I’ve been doing this for about three years and I think I’m getting reasonably close to getting it done, he said. It is something that without question needs to be addressed.”
Much of his research and knowledge of financial literacy and wellness comes from Keown’s chief hobby outside of teaching, which is writing textbooks.
“There is no question that writing has helped me in the classroom, because as I write a textbook I am trying to do the same thing I try to do in the classroom. I have a theme that carries through, that makes sense and can be followed with good examples,” Keown explained. “I’ve read every text book there is in the finance area and I pull examples I used in class from different books. Really, you write a book to capture the students and help them follow the logic. That same approach works great in the classroom.”
He credits much of his current success to reading, writing, and research, but there is little doubt that Keown’s personal experiences within Pamplin have helped shape him as the professor he is today. In over 40 years, he has witnessed much development and transition within the college and the department.
“When I first came here it was the Department of Business, and we had just over 100 faculty members. Now, we have a very large faculty and a new dean who has unbelievable energy. Twenty years ago, we couldn’t put anyone on Wall Street and now we do it regularly,” Keown said. “The thing that has remained the same over the years is what gives me satisfaction, and that’s impacting students’ lives. Seeing former students be successful and realizing that I might have had a small part in that – nothing makes me feel better than that.”
During his time working in the Finance Department, Keown served as Department Head for nine years, was an advisor for SEED (the student run endowment) as well as the Finance club, and has spent time sitting on several cross-campus committees. However, all of those roles relate back to his core passion: finance.
“Finance seems to be a subject that is kind of all over the place, but I love the logic and the fact that finance is really driven by some very basic principles,” Keown said. “Most of those concepts revolve around this idea of being able to value something. I like that mix of simplicity and complexity at the same time.”
And that passion, is what drives Keown everyday towards his daily purpose: teaching.
“There is no question in the world that I have the best job. If you think about teaching at the college level, you really have the chance to impact students. This is the time in their lives where they are defining their destiny. What they do, how well they do it, what majors they choose: it’s all going to determine where they end up in life,” Keown said. “Part of it is enthusiasm; that’s easy because I just love what I do. Part of it may be trying to bring real world examples into class, and part of it is trying to show them that even if they are not finance majors and they are never plan to take another finance course in their lives, there is still material that they have to understand. I know at the end of the day that my students are without question better off, and I hope I have added value to their time here.”