Keane takes unexpected but rewarding path
Back in 1985, when MechSE lecturer Richard Keane moved from Australia to Illinois, he had not planned on becoming a faculty member in MechSE.
“I didn’t come here to get a PhD, I came here to get married,” he said.
Keane’s fiancée at the time, MatSE professor Trudy Kriven, had accepted a job teaching at the U of I.
“Her career would have been seriously jeopardized by coming back to Australia,” Keane said. “She’s now a world famous ceramic engineer, but if she’d come back she would’ve ended up in a fairly ordinary academic position.”
So Keane followed her to Illinois.
To get through immigration more easily, he decided to enroll in the TAM PhD program. He and Kriven got married two days before he left Australia.
Keane’s pursuit of college education began long before he came stateside. He had graduated with a mathematics degree from the School of Mathematical Sciences at Flinders University in Adelaide and then earned his master’s in mathematics from Flinders as well. Still in Australia, he lectured mathematics for eight years at James Cook University in Townsville and earned a 1st class (honors) B.E. in civil engineering in the latter three years there.
“My father was proud of the fact that I got a mathematics degree in graduate school, but I think he was more proud when I graduated with an engineering degree than anything else,” Keane said.
“I was 35 years old when I started graduate school here,” Keane said. “I started university when I was 16 and graduated with a PhD when I was 42! I was extremely fortunate to be supervised by Professor Ron Adrian, a world leader in fluid mechanics.”
Outside of work, Keane enjoys fine art and listening to classical music. He loves to travel around Europe whenever he has the chance.
“I’ve been to Italy, Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Turkey, Austria, Ireland, and the UK,” he said. “I haven’t been to Spain or France. I’d like to travel to those countries and go visit art galleries.”
Keane also does charity work with Empty Tomb, a non-profit organization in Champaign-Urbana that does house repairs and delivers furniture for locals living in poverty. He has volunteered on most Saturdays for the past 20 years.
“You get to meet really nice people to work with and people who need help, and you learn how to do things,” Keane said of the experience. “I can actually fix things in my own home that I never would have been able to do before.”
Keane’s advice for kids and students is simple. “Do something you like doing and be the best you can at it,” he said. “And what I keep telling my four kids is, do more than people expect you to do.”