Emeritus Professor of Anthropology Kenneth Keller, Ph.D., died Aug. 13 at age 83 after living gracefully with Parkinson’s Disease for 27 years. Loved by all who knew him, Keller was known to be kind, astute, courageous and a lover of corny jokes.  

Keller grew up in LaPorte, Indiana, where he stayed through his high school graduation. Keller was ordained as a Catholic priest in June 1968. He earned bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Theology at St. Francis College and a master’s and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Colorado as a student of Gotfried Lang, Ph.D. Between his master’s and Ph.D., Keller spent two years working with the Asmat in Irian Jaya, Indonesia.    

“Ken Keller was an effective and supportive chair, mentor and colleague,” said Virginia Cruz, affiliate faculty member in Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Social Work Department. “He worked hard to bring resources into the department. His vision of a thriving Social Work program led to todays success of MSU Denver’s BSW and MSW accredited programs with over 800 students. His collaboration with the Colorado Department of Human Services laid the groundwork for MSU Denver’s Department of Social Work to award over $1 million in student stipends. His support and kind spirit will always be remembered.” 

After completing his Ph.D. research in Cultural Anthropology, Keller began his career teaching Anthropology at MSU Denver. He served the University from the 1970s until his retirement in 2008. During his tenure, in addition to teaching, Keller chaired the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and served as associate dean of the College of Letters, Arts and Science.

While at the University, he helped the Social Work program evolve into a department and collaborated in the founding of the Family Literacy Center. He also helped build bridges with China through an Academic Scholars Exchange Program, teaching at the Guangxi Normal University in Guilin. Not only was Keller known to work with Anthropology and Sociology students, but he also worked closely with Nursing students, students seeking teacher licensure, Social Work students and their respective departments.

His ability to empathize and make people feel comfortable and seen brought diverse groups together to meet a common goal. In recognition of his service to students, colleagues and MSU Denver, he received an Outstanding Faculty Award and was awarded the title of Emeritus Professor of Anthropology after his retirement.  

“Ken’s style epitomized collegiality,” said Sandra Haynes, former deputy provost/associate vice president and College of Professional Studies dean. “He shared his vast knowledge freely yet was best at listening and working with others. I was lucky to have him as a fellow dean, a mentor and a friend.”

His daughter, Cathy, was the apple of his eye. He loved being involved in her life. Whether Keller was teaching her to throw a softball, driving her to swim practice at 5 a.m., taking care of her horse while she was at college, discussing philosophy or giving her professional advice, she knew her father was always around, always loving, always gentle and kind.   

If you would like to make a donation in his memory, please direct it to MSU Denver or the Parkinson Association of the Rockies. The Keller family would like to establish an endowed scholarship at MSU Denver that would last in perpetuity if donations reach $25,000. If the total sum is a lesser amount, several scholarships will be awarded in the next scholarship cycle or two.

If you are among those, please join us for a celebration of Ken’s life.

Date: Saturday, Aug. 26

Time: 1 p.m. 

Location: Ten-Thirty Catholic Community/Capitol Heights Presbyterian Church (1100 Fillmore St, Denver, CO 80206) 

Reception to follow. 

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Dr. Kenneth Michael Keller, please visit our flower store. 

Ken will be greatly missed by family, friends, students and colleagues.