We all read the obituaries for a variety of reasons. For me, it is a somewhat strange way to get to know someone after the fact of their demise. One’s life story is all that remains for any of us in the end. It is our legacy.
The Press Democrat had a rather unusual memorial in the January 9th edition. It took two-thirds of a page and was written by columnist Chris Smith. It was a compelling accounting of the life of one, Frank Keegan. True iconoclasts don’t come along very often but when they do the threads of their lives make for fascinating and thought-provoking reading.
First and foremost, Frank or Buster as he was known, was a passionate academic. The funny thing about academics is there are no bounds to where their impulses and ideas take them. They can be challenging and unsettling to more conventional thinkers. After graduating from Santa Rosa High and UC Santa Clara, Frank moved through various positions at a long list of colleges around the country and he was academic vice-president for a brief wild ride at SSU. He was on a quest to find innovative ways to make higher education accessible to as many people as possible. He was a disruptor and an innovator. Sometimes the only way was to ‘break a few eggs’ (hence his nickname). He had an amazing life replete with adventure, a marriage of 71 years and ten children.
What captivated me most were the quotes Chris included in his tribute. He was all about learning, about the world, its people and instilled that in his children. One of his kids remembered how he would come to breakfast with a stack of newspaper articles for all of them. On some he’d write “Required Reading” which was a clear order that he would expect follow up conversations about the issues and ideas contained therein. He certainly was a bigger than life figure. My favorite quote was: “We need an education in order to tell a Jimmy Carter from a Ronald Reagan, to tell a hawk for a handsaw, so you’re sharp, you know the issues, you know when you’re being conned. “That kind of education is essential in a democratic society. If you don’t have an educated citizenry, you’ll have a monarchy or a dictatorship, but you won’t have a government of the people, by the people and for the people.”
These are words to live by and at Rotary they lie at the heart of our commitment to helping our local youth get the education they need and deserve. To help them find their way to becoming better citizens and most importantly, to think for themselves. They are our future and everything is riding on their shoulders. Without knowing it, we seem to be in lock step with Professor Keegan’s mission. R.I.P. Buster!