From the war room to the classroom

By Spree Hilliard
Lake Media
November 7, 2012

Despite living on Military bases and growing up with a serviceman as a father, Dr. John Keeney never thought he would be a soldier himself. That was until the 1960s and the United States found itself at war. “I had not planned on a military career. The country was at war, so I felt an obligation. Able bodied guys ought to be available, Keeney said.

 Keeney served as an Army Specialist fifth class from 1969 to 1971 in Vietnam. His job was unique and served an interesting purpose. “My job was to do articles on military operation and take pictures for civilian and military publications,” Keeney said. He served the Army engineers and covered engineer operations along with other military units. He was in a unique position and was able to see all sides of the service. “It was real interesting. I would be a fly on the wall with big commanders when they would plan operations. Then I would get to see the preparations and see it in action,” Keeney recalled.

 Before joining the service, Kenney received a teaching degree and went on to get his master’s degree following his deployment. “Then I started my teaching career. I knew in high school that I wanted to be a teacher. I went on to be a high school History and English teacher. I became the assistant principal and principal then I began teaching adjunct for different colleges. I entered the college teaching world and moved my career over to that. I started off teaching then got into administration,” he said.

His military background became useful when he began teaching high school students. He shared the journalism skills he attained with students who found themselves writing articles.

Having lived part of history also became useful while teaching history classes. “It gave me some perspective having lived through something that was historical,” Keeney said. He found it unique to have actually seen and lived the war and not just read about it.

 Keeney now is the director of Columbia College Lake of Ozark campus. Columbia College was one of the first colleges to have a campus on a military base. Today, many veterans come to Columbia College Lake campus when they return from deployment. Keeney is able to relate to those students and connect to them in a way that other professors and administrators can’t even imagine.

Columbia College staff will soon take part in “Give them 30” training, an online program that trains employees with how to work with veterans and help them transition smoothly into civilian life. Keeney may not have made a career out of the military but used his experiences in his current career regularly.