McKeon retires from Graduate School, will still help train international teaching assistants

BLACKSBURG, Va., Jan. 14, 2005 – Donald McKeon, of Blacksburg, director of the Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) Workshop and International Graduate Teaching Assistant (IGTA) Training, and international adviser in the Graduate School at Virginia Tech, is retiring after a long and distinguished career as a teacher, lecturer, author, and adviser.

McKeon helped develop the university's English as a Second Language program, including teaching an ESL methods course and an academic writing course. He contributed to orientation programs for international students and scholars and provided much guidance in areas of immigration status. He created the English Language Training Program for international graduate teaching assistants and was instrumental in developing the annual comprehensive workshop for all new graduate teaching assistants. When he was not teaching, he kept an open door for the international students and scholars who sought his counsel on academic and personal matters. Although officially retired, McKeon will continue to offer English-language training for international teaching assistants as a part-time instructor.

A New York native, McKeon earned a bachelor's in theology and anthropology from Nyack College and a master's in teaching English as a second language from New York University, where he also earned a Ph.D. in linguistics. His career led him to Lebanon to teach English at a small American university in Beirut for three years, a period he calls a "stretching experience." Though he could use the summers to travel around the Middle East, the tumultuous events of the 60s required his evacuation from Beirut during the six-day war.

On his return to the United States, he accepted a position as a visiting professor at the University of Wisconsin then joined the faculty at Virginia Tech in 1973. "His facility for linguistics naturally led him to move to the university's International Office in 1978, and his commitment to the international community at Virginia Tech has continued ever since," said Karen P. DePauw, vice provost for Graduate Studies and dean of the Graduate School.

McKeon helped build Virginia Tech's international-student community, attracting students from China, India, and Taiwan, and participated in an orientation program for Taiwanese scholars for 10 years. He has worked in the International Office, which moved to the Graduate School when it became full time, for 20 years. Although he still loves teaching linguistics, he considers helping students the primary focus of his career.

"McKeon and his wife, Evelyn, showed a kindness and openness to international students, welcoming many visitors to their home, inviting them to attend holiday dinners, and even providing temporary shelter during housing shortages," DePauw said. "His friendships extend to many corners of the world."