Legal legend to be honored with naming of Semester in DC Program

Penn State Law will celebrate legendary public servant John C. “Jack” Keeney by naming the School’s Semester in Washington, D.C. Program in his honor at a luncheon to be held on Tuesday, Dec. 13 at The Ritz-Carlton, 1150 22nd Street, NW, Washington, D.C. Current and former colleagues, fellow alumni, and members of the D.C. legal community are welcome to attend. Funds raised will support the John C. Keeney Semester in Washington D.C. Program.

During the luncheon, The Hon. Stanley Sporkin will present Keeney with the Justice Tom C. Clark Award for Outstanding Government Lawyer on behalf of the District of Columbia Chapter of the Federal Bar Association, which is co-sponsoring the event.

“Jack Keeney is one of the most revered public servants in U.S. history. We are extremely privileged to be able to name our D.C. Semester Program after him and hope that members of the legal community and Dickinson School of Law alumni will join us in celebrating his illustrious career,” said Law School Dean Philip McConnaughay.

His work with the United States Department of Justice Criminal Division spanned nearly six decades, 12 U.S. presidents, and 23 attorneys general, making him one of the longest serving career employees in the history of the federal government.

“Mr. Keeney is one of the most respected officials in the federal law enforcement community and has made an enduring imprint on the community and on the federal civil service itself,” said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

Born in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Keeney first served his country as a member of the U.S. Army Air Corps, suspending his undergraduate studies to join the war effort in 1943. A navigator aboard a B-17 bomber, he was stationed in England and charged with flying bombing raids over Nazi Germany where he and the rest of his crew were taken prisoners of war.

Following the war, Keeney completed a bachelor of science degree at the University of Scranton in 1947. He earned his law degree from The Dickinson School of Law in 1949 and a master of laws from The George Washington University School of Law in 1953.

Keeney joined the Department of Justice in March of 1951 under the Truman Administration, initially working on prosecuting members of the Communist Party who were working to overthrow the U.S. Government. Over the years, he served in such significant capacities as Chief of the Smith Act Unit in the Internal Security Division, Deputy Chief of the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section, Chief of the Fraud Section, and as a representative of the U.S. legal team negotiating the mutual legal assistance treaty with Switzerland.

Throughout the course of his career, Keeney served on numerous occasions as acting assistant attorney general of the Criminal Division. He retired as Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division in 2010.

Keeney has been celebrated by the Department of Justice with the prestigious Attorney General’s Award for his exceptional service and with the Criminal Division’s highest award, the Henry E. Petersen Memorial Award. In 2000, the Justice Department dedicated its building at 1301 New York Avenue, N.W., in his name.

The John C. Keeney Semester in Washington, D.C. Program allows highly motivated law students to spend a semester of law school working for academic credit at an approved federal agency or nonprofit organization. Students in the program aspire to careers in government or public interest organizations. Naming the program for John C. “Jack” Keeney is intended to create a perpetual legacy to his exemplary public service and to promote the high professional standards he personifies.

For more information on joining the Law School’s celebration of Keeney’s commitment to public service and his country, visit the website.

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Last Updated November 16, 2011