Art Keown, R.B. Pamplin Professor of Finance and a multiple award-winning teacher whose textbooks are used at major universities across the nation, received his latest career honor when the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors appointed him an Alumni Distinguished Professor.
The professorship is a pre-eminent appointment, recognizing remarkable scholarship and service, as well as extraordinary teaching that has influenced the lives of generations of students.
Fewer than 1 percent of Virginia Tech faculty members hold this honor, and Keown is the first in the Pamplin College of Business to do so.
Keown joined Virginia Tech in 1974. He has published numerous articles in top-tier finance journals but in recent decades has focused on writing textbooks about financial management and personal finance that are now considered the standard in the field.
He has served his professional associations, college, and university in various leadership roles. At Pamplin, he was department head twice, for a total of 12 years (1982-91 and 2011-14).
The university organizations where he has volunteered his time and expertise include Virginia Tech Services, where he chaired the board for 16 years. During this time, about $17 million in surplus funds were returned to the university and directed toward student-related uses, and textbook prices on campus were kept low.
At the Athletics Department, Keown helped overhaul academic advising and counseling for student-athletes to help them reach their academic potential — an effort that resulted in an increase in student-athlete graduation rates.
Keown — “Dr. K” to his students — is best known for his inspired teaching and dedicated mentoring
For the past 15 years, he has been the primary instructor in the junior-level introductory course in finance — a required course for all majors in Pamplin that currently averages 400 students a section and a course that is particularly challenging for non-finance majors.
Even with these large sections, Keown strives to remain accessible, providing students with his office and home phone numbers so they can reach him any day of the week between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., finance department head Vijay Singal noted.
“There is an artistry with which Art guides the class,” Singal wrote in his nomination letter.
He presents complex financial topics “in an intuitive way that allows students to apply what they have learned in class later in life when the problems encountered do not match textbook presentations,” wrote Singal.
“It is this ability to provide the student with a conceptual understanding of the financial decision-making process, rather than just an introduction to the tools and techniques of finance, that makes him an excellent teacher.”
Keown’s teaching skills have resulted in outstanding evaluations (more than 5.50 on a 6.00 scale), despite the size of his classes and his high expectations of his students (average student grade below 3.0). “Clearly, he is not receiving good evaluations as a result of high grades,” Singal noted.
Keown’s impact is evident in numerous letters and other testimonials from students in his classes and other forums.
Among his former students is Wayne Robinson, a 1980 finance graduate and former NBA player. Recalling his campus years in a 2010 Pamplin magazine story, Robinson said: “Without Dr. Keown, I don’t know if I would have made it. I spent a lot of hours with him, talking about the best way to handle the workload and doing whatever extra work was needed.”
Keown was one of the first people Robinson sought out on a campus visit after being appointed to the Board of Visitors.
Similarly, when 1982 finance graduate Brad Casper, a former president of the Phoenix Suns and former CEO of Dial Corporation, returned for a visit, Singal wrote, “it was Dr. Keown that he asked to see.”
Keown has served for 21 years as the faculty advisor to the Finance Club and for 10 years as the co-advisor to SEED, the non-credit, student-managed investment portfolio of approximately $5 million of Virginia Tech Foundation funds, volunteering for both these duties.
Seeing firsthand the financial burdens facing many Virginia Tech graduates, he has embarked on a new mission: establishing a Financial Literacy and Financial Wellness Program for all Virginia Tech students. The multifaceted program he is developing includes a financial awareness campaign, online and classroom learning opportunities to help students manage finances and control debt, and a financial wellness clinic where students facing financial difficulties can go for help.
His accolades include five Pamplin awards for teaching, the university’s William E. Wine Award and Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching, the SCHEV (State Council of Higher Education for Virginia) Outstanding Faculty Award, and, in 2015, the Student Government Association’s first Honor Pylon award for faculty.
Keown received a bachelor’s degree from Ohio Wesleyan University, an MBA from the University of Michigan, and his doctorate from Indiana University.