Michael Lawrence Keene
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Michael Lawrence Keene

Knoxville, TN

Keene, Michael Lawrence (Mike), 70, Knoxville, died at home the night of February 3, 2018. Mike was born in Lawton, Oklahoma to Larry and Dorothy Keene and graduated from Lawton High School in 1965. He earned his BA and MA degrees at the University Oklahoma, then a PhD at the University of Texas in Austin. He began teaching at Texas A & M and moved to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 1981, retiring December, 2014. He received six university awards for outstanding teaching and a three-year departmental chair for distinguished teaching. Mike published 25 books and many professional articles on writing and material rhetoric. He volunteered his teaching and writing skills to the larger community, too, especially through the Society for Technical Communication and the Episcopal Church.

Mike was born to notice, to write, to mentor, and to sing. He offered these gifts to all ages-young children, teenage campers, university students, and adults-often while rocking on a porch, tying his favorite sailor's knot, a monkey's fist. He helped some to hone a skill, others to build a profession, all to embrace life's joy, and a few to seek a faith at ease with mystery and grounded in gratitude. His tools were insight, strategy, an encyclopedic memory, quiet encouragement, story-telling, funny hats, and the ability to remember (or fake) the words to any song he had ever heard. He could point the finger at naked emperors and then forgive them. He realized that he really needed something to be in charge of and that he hated to be ignored. He loved dogs, entertained children, and befriended women. And men. He relished collaborative work, especially with long-time co-authors and friends, Kate Adams of Loyola University, New Orleans, and Ralph Voss, professor emeritus at University of Alabama and with Russel Hirst, departmental colleague in technical communication. Luckiest of all were his friends and family, who could lean on him, sing with him, and laugh with him to the end, who could make their home in his presence and thrive there.

Mike leaves his wife, the Reverend Claire Allen Keene; daughter, Amy Keene; stepson, Ben Hall and wife Kim; granddaughters Socorro Hall, Lucia Hall, and Emily Frost; grandson Zevi Hall; sister, Dorothy Keene Kraemer and husband Sam Kraemer; nephews Larry Kraemer, Peter Kraemer, and Chris Krisher; niece Gabrielle Krisher Smith; nephews-in-law Robert Calhoun and Marshall Drane; nieces-in-law Melissa Allen Smith and Caroline Calhoun. Mike's parents, Larry and Dorothy Keene predeceased him in death, as did his sister, Mary Keene Krisher.

Memorial donations may be made in Mike's name to Grace Point Episcopal Camp and Conference Center, c/o the Rev. Brad Jones, 300 Chamberlain Cove Rd., Kingston, TN 37763. The family are especially grateful to the Lay Eucharistic Visitors of St. Elizabeth Episcopal Church, who brought communion week by week, and to the staff of Quality Home Health, who did their best to strengthen, tend, and comfort Mike as long as possible.

The Burial Office for Mike will be held at St. John's Cathedral February 17 at noon, followed by a reception in the Great Hall, the Very Rev. John Ross officiating and the Right Rev. Brian Cole preaching. Parking will be available near the church. All are welcome.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Knoxville News Sentinel from Feb. 15 to Feb. 16, 2018.
12:00 PM
St. John's Cathedral
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2 entries
August 10, 2018
I was an Engineering student in 1984 when I received a job offer to be a technical writer, which I had no idea how to do. My academic advisor introduced me to Dr. Keene, who invited me to hang out with his clutch of graduate students and made me practically memorize a handbook on grammar. This proved to be the most useful class I've ever taken. So, thank you for my life and 34-year (so far) career as a technical writer and editor.
-- Sandra Keen, "no relation" as Dr. Keene always said when introducing me to someone.
Sandra Keen
February 16, 2018
John and I were saddened at the news of Michael's death. We have fond memories of him at St. Stephen's Church in Oak Ridge. We will hold them close to our hearts!
Barbara Tucekr Reed
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