John Keene, MCP’66, Emeritus Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at Penn’s Weitzman School of Design, died March 5. He was 90 years old.
Mr. Keene earned a BA from Yale University in 1953 in International Relations, graduating magna cum laude. From 1953 to 1956, he served in the United States Navy as a CIC officer and operations officer. He went on to earn a JD from Harvard Law in 1959, then earned a master’s degree in urban planning from Penn in 1966, specializing in the legal aspects of planning. Immediately after graduating from Penn, Mr. Keene joined the Penn faculty as an assistant professor of urban planning. In 1968 he was promoted to associate professor; he then worked for more than five decades at Penn, teaching “an encyclopedic range of courses on the legal aspects of different fields of planning and planning theory, land use planning regulation, and planning techniques. managing growth to protecting farmland and remediating brownfields,” in the words of a tribute from Dean of the Weitzman School, Frederick Steiner. In 1983 Mr. Keene was promoted to Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, and he chaired the department from 1989 to 1994. He was also chair of the department’s graduate study group from 1989 to 1991 and again from 2002 to 2005.
In 1978, Mr. Keene was appointed the university’s ombudsman, a position he held until 1984. chair on legal proceedings from 1982 to 1983. He also served on several committees of the Faculty Senate and the University Council. In 1997, he became elected president of the Senate of the Faculty (Almanac May 6, 1997), as President for the 1998-1999 academic year. He has taken other initiatives on campus, serving on a Locust Walk advisory committee and other advisory committees. He received the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2004 and the G. Holmes Perkins Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2005. “A good teacher is remembered long after the course is over,” said said a student. . “These words best describe Professor Keene. Professor Keene has had an immeasurable impact on my personal and professional life. Another student said, “The impact of his scholarship goes beyond the four walls of the classroom Many of my international development colleagues continue to refer to his work for advice.
Mr. Keene retired in 2006 and subsequently achieved emeritus status, but remained active at Penn. That same year, he was again chosen as Protector of the University (Almanac July 11, 2006). “John, who served as the University’s Ombudsman from 1978 to 1984, brings a breadth and depth of experience, excellent judgment and commitment to the role of Ombudsman that will enable him to be highly effective,” said President emeritus Amy Gutmann during the time. “I am delighted that he has agreed to serve again as Penn’s mediator.” At that time, Mr. Keene was also an officer of the Penn Association of Senior and Emeritus Faculty (PASEF), continuing to serve on Faculty Senate Committees as a non-voting member.
As Chair of the Faculty Senate, Mr. Keene addressed Penn’s early 1998 graduates (Almanac May 19/26, 1998). “As I stand here looking at you all, my thoughts go back to my own graduation from Penn in 1966, when I got my Masters in Urban Planning,” he said. “When I sat in Convention Hall, I had no idea of the upheaval that would take place at Penn and on campuses across the country in a few years, as your parents’ generation cried out against the injustices and inequalities that “they saw around them. How will your world be transformed by the overwhelming pressures of population growth, especially in developing countries?…As you build your career and your family, you must also take individual responsibility to protect the global ecosystem, control environmental pollution, and reduce social injustice in the world, or human society as we know it will not continue.
Mr. Keene has studied the interactions between law, planning, land use policy and environmental policy. In 1975 he took a leave of absence from Penn to research emerging aspects of land use regulation and the effects of recent legislation on the concept of property. In 1999, he received an award from the University Research Foundation (URF) for a project entitled Regional Planning in Spain: An Assessment. He published the books Untaxed open space (1976); Farmland Protection: A Reference Guide for State and Local Governments (nineteen eighty one); and Saving America’s Farmland: What Works? (1997), and co-author of others. He has also written several peer-reviewed articles, reports and book chapters. In 2014, an article he wrote was published in the Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and in 2018 he co-authored The Farmland Preservation Law in the United States with Thomas L. Daniels. He has consulted on several legal cases involving farmland and legal policy and served in 1973 on the Philadelphia City Charter Review Commission.
He is survived by his wife, Ana Maria Keene; and eleven children. To read more Weitzman School teachers and Mr. Keene’s fond memories, visit https://www.design.upenn.edu/news/remembering-john-keene-1931%E2%80%932022. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that contributions in Mr Keene’s honor be made to the Department of Urban and Regional Planning Scholarship Fund or the Department of Urban Studies Scholarship Fund.