Professor's Sense of Community Becomes His Legacy

Ron Keith, an associate professor of physics at Emporia State University, cared deeply for the people around him, especially his students. He may have lost his battle with cancer in late 2007, but his caring personality will remain.

Through an estate gift, the professor left behind his legacy through the Ronald Loren Keith Scholarship Fund. The educational opportunity is available for juniors and seniors seeking a bachelor of science degree with a desire to teach physics.

Ron was deeply involved in the community of Emporia State, caring for faculty members and students alike. He constantly worried and cared about how much students were working while pursuing an education, said Amy Sage Webb, a close friend and associate professor at Emporia State. He felt that if they had financial help they would be able to spend more time focusing on academics.

"The scholarship meant recognizing the excellence and potential of the students who inspired him and made him want to be the best teacher he could be," Webb said. "Ron believed deeply in the community of a university, so funding a student financially meant giving that student a greater chance of being able to become involved in all that the university has to offer."

With his colleagues, Ron's caring personality was also evident. Always thoughtful with professional advice, he made an effort to make all colleagues feel as if they were part of a family. "Ron had a fine sense of community, particularly within the university," said Dr. DeWayne Backhus, chair of the departments of physical sciences. "As a single person, Emporia State and Emporia represented a sense of family for him. He took advantage of many campus and community cultural events. Consequently, he became known by many beyond his immediate circle of colleagues."

Perhaps this is why so many people showed up to care for and visit him while he battled cancer. He did his best to make friendships with everyone he came in contact with. "He had a combination of intelligence, integrity, and sweetness that was unique," Webb said. "He was up for anything, and he loved being with people. He laughed easily, and every picture you see of him, he is smiling."

Even when he was going through more pain than most could imagine, he continued to take time to think of others and create a legacy for students to benefit from. "He made himself fully present in the lives of students. No matter what their major, he was interested in students as whole people," Webb said.

Ron was always there for students and colleagues, and constantly attended a variety of activities. If a student was present, he wanted to be there as well.

In May 2007, Ron crafted the scholarship to leave his mark on the future. What better way for him to honor his memory than to create a scholarship to encourage students to adopt his way of teaching and friendship. Ron may not be teaching any more, but his inspiration lives on.