July 28, 1920 –April 2, 2017
HAVERFORD, PA - Howard Clark Kee II, died in his sleep, 4/2/2017 in Haverford, PA. Survived by children H. Clark, Christopher and Sarah, Grandchildren Charles and Ann
Howard Kee was born to Walter Leslie and Regina (Corcoran) Kee in Beverly, NJ on July 28, 1920. He attended public school, where his mother occasionally worked as a substitute teacher. He was fond of recounting how his younger sister would teach him her lessons, and he credited her with enabling him to skip at least one grade in elementary school. He learned to play piano and organ, which instilled in him a lifelong love for music. He attended Bryan College, in Dayton, TN, where he was asked to take "elocution classes," which removed what had apparently been a strong south New Jersey accent. Graduating with an A.B in 1940, he then attended Dallas Theological Seminary, attaining a Th. M. degree in 1944. While at seminary he also accompanied and wrote arrangements for a gospel quartet, eventually appearing regularly on a local radio show.
From Dallas he went to New Haven, receiving his Ph.D. from Yale in 1951. He was an instructor in religion and classics at the University of Pennsylvania from 1951-1953, and an assistant professor and professor of New Testament at Drew University from 1953-1968. In 1968 he was appointed the Rufus Jones professor of history of religion at Bryn Mawr College where he taught until 1977. In 1977 he became the William Goodwin Aurelio professor of Biblical Studies at Boston University, a position he held until his retirement in 1989. While at BU he served for a time as the chairman of the graduate division of religious studies. In the course of his career Dr. Kee also was a visiting professor or research scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, Brown, the University of Durham (UK), Claremont School of Theology, and Mississippi State University.
Augmenting his teaching, Dr. Kee was a member of archaeological teams excavating Biblical and related sites in the middle east. His work included participating in excavations at Roman Jericho (1950); Schechem (1957); Mt. Gerazim (1966); Pella, Jordan (1967); Ashdod, Israel (1968).
He served as chairman of the Council on Graduate Studies in Religion, and served on the Board of Managers of the American Bible Society, where from 1985-1989 he also chaired the translations committee.
Dr. Kee was the author of more than twenty books on religious studies, notably Understanding the New Testament, which was a widely used introductory textbook, and The Community of the New Age, which marked a shift in his work from a primarily text-analytical approach to New Testament studies to a more comprehensive cultural-historical and sociological perspective. In the 1990s he was editor of the Cambridge University Press Annotated Study Bible, the Cambridge Annotated Apocrypha, and the Cambridge Companion to the Bible.
In the 1960's Dr. Kee was active in the civil rights movement, and joined clergy from throughout the U.S. in marches on Selma and Birmingham, AL. In his later years, he devoted considerable time and energy to the work of the American Interfaith Institute, which seeks to promote understanding among Christians and Jews.
An inveterate piano player until near the end of his life, Dr. Kee also served on the advisory board of the Yale University Institute of Sacred Music, and was for a time the chairman of the board of the Mohawk Trail Concerts, in his beloved summer community, Charlemont, MA. His proudest achievement may have been compiling the libretto for Howard Hanson's oratorio New Land New Covenant, composed for the U.S. bicentennial in 1976. Drawing on Elhanan Winchester's Oration on the Discovery of America, Michael Wigglesworth's God's Controversy with New England and hymns of Isaac Watts and John Newton, the libretto highlights early settlers' view of the American prospect as a blessed opportunity.
The family will hold a private service in Charlemont, MA.
In lieu of flowers, gifts may be made to the American Civil Liberties Union or the ACLU Foundation.
Published in The Recorder on Apr. 6, 2017.