BOSTON, Mass.—Emerson Athletics is saddened to announce the passing of Rudy Keeling, who served as Athletics Director at Emerson from 2002 to 2007 and impacted countless Emerson student-athletes and staff. He passed away Saturday morning in Londonderry, New Hampshire, after a valiant battle with cancer. He was 66.
During his tenure at the helm of Emerson Athletics, Keeling oversaw the College’s addition of multimillion dollar athletic facilities including Rotch Field and the Bobbi Brown and Steven Plofker Gym, which have greatly affected the success of Emerson Athletics. In addition, the Lions celebrated its first NCAA qualifying team in 2007, as the Softball team collected the GNAC Championship and was honored by the NCAA for the highest aggregate GPA in Division III.
Keeling was also integral to bringing baseball back to varsity level as well as adding a women’s lacrosse program. Under his leadership, the Lions collected its first Double All-American as Basketball’s Rob Hennigan was named All-American and Academic All-American.
In May 2007, Keeling was named the seventh commissioner of the ECAC, where he served until his retirement in January. When he was appointed, he became the first African American ever to head a major sports conference. As commissioner, Keeling was responsible for providing leadership, direction, consultation, and support for the Conference’s programs.
During his tenure, Keeling was instrumental in forming the Division II Lacrosse League, expanding Division I Lacrosse membership, creating the Holiday Festival Basketball Tournament at Walt Disney World in Florida, and establishing the Labor Day Soccer Classic. He worked to establish the ECAC as the host for the NCAA Division I Men’s Hockey Frozen Four in 2014.
Before he became an administrator, Keeling was a Division I head basketball coach for 13 seasons. He began his head coaching career at the University of Maine in 1988 and coached in Orono through the 1996 season. He earned the North Atlantic Conference Coach of the Year award after leading the Black Bears to a school record of 20 wins in 1993–94. After the 1996 season, Keeling became the head coach of the Northeastern University Men’s Basketball team. Prior to his time as a head coach, Keeling was an assistant coach and the primary recruiter at Marquette University.
A native New Yorker, Keeling was born on March 17, 1947, the third and oldest son of Harold R. and Theodora Holder Keeling. He attended Bishop Dubois High School. Keeling’s distinguished legacy in athletics began as a student-athlete at the University of Notre Dame and later at Quincy University, where he met his loving wife, Jane Slevin, in 1967.
In addition to his devoted wife Mrs. Jane Keeling of 42 years, Rudy leaves behind his loving children and their partners, Drs. Kara Keeling and Chandra Ford, Ms. Tina Keeling and Mr. Nick Valadez, and Mr. Cory Keeling, as well as his treasured grandson, Nicholas Spalding Valadez. His son Kip predeceased him in 2011. He also leaves behind his mother, Theodora, and two brothers, Mr. Leon Keeling, of Charlotte, North Carolina, and the Reverend Dr. Terrence Keeling of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and many nieces, nephews, in-laws, and hundreds of friends and colleagues.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, July 13, 2013, at 11:00 am at the Bobbi Brown and Steven Plofker Gym on the Emerson College campus. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the “Rudy Keeling Scholarship” c/o NACDA Foundation, 24651 Detroit Road Westlake, OH 44145, being facilitated through MOAA. The fund will assist young athletics administrators with furthering post-graduate pursuits.