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December 4, 2007
A service honoring the life of alumnus and emeritus staff member Ralph Waldo Keller, director of the Stanford Career Planning and Placement Center from 1965 to 1982, will be held at 4 p.m. Dec. 5 in Memorial Church. Keller died on Nov. 3 at Stanford Hospital at the age of 90.
Upon formal retirement in 1982, Keller worked for a while as assistant dean of alumni relations at the School of Education. He and his wife, Jane Kephart Keller, were married for 68 years and lived on campus, where they raised a family and befriended many in the Stanford community.
As director of the career center, Keller urged students to take a broad range of courses so they would be intellectually well-rounded adults. Colleagues remember that he emphasized work-life balance in his office.
"I think it makes all of us better at what we do because we all have that balance in our lives," said Kathy Campbell, who first came to the center during Keller's tenure and is now assistant director of its current incarnation, the Career Development Center. "In my 28 years here, I hope I've done him proud."
Campbell said both Ruth Schneider, the center's director after Keller, and its current director, Lance Choy, shared his family-friendly work ethic. Formerly located in White Plaza next to the Stanford Bookstore, the Career Development Center is now across from the Haas Center for Public Service.
"He really had built this place," Campbell said of Keller, who would have turned 91 on Dec. 23.
He also is credited with helping hundreds of Stanford-trained educational administrators find jobs during his tenure at the career center, as well as assisting various Bay Area school districts seeking superintendents. He also used his extensive network to place graduates of the School of Education.
His retirement from Stanford, however, was his second. Keller, a native of Rio, W. Va., came to Stanford after a distinguished career in the military. Beginning with active duty in the Army in 1941, Keller's service to his country included various advisory roles related to education and training for the Air Force and Air Force Academy in the 1940s and early 1950s. He also worked at the Pentagon and in Israel, where he was superintendent of American School for two years and, in Tel Aviv, served as U.S. Air Attaché and special assistant to the secretary of the Air Force for three years.
During his service in the Air Force, from 1952 to 1956, Keller was a professor of air science at Stanford—one of his alma maters. He had earned advanced degrees in curriculum studies and teacher education at Stanford, his master's in 1948 and his PhD three years later. He obtained a bachelor's degree in physical education from the University of Maryland in 1938.
Upon retirement from the Air Force in 1965, Keller took the director position at the career center, while also lecturing occasionally in the School of Education and the School of Humanities and Sciences.
Keller is survived by his wife and their sons Richard and James Keller, daughter Barbara Keller Stone, sister Vivian Cassel, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Family and friends are invited to the service in Memorial Church, which will be followed by a reception at the Faculty Club. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be sent to either the Alzheimer's Association or the American Cancer Society.
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