PNW Pioneer

Keen on Keon: a look at PNW’s chancellor

Chancellor Thomas Keon points to one of his paintings in Vice Chancellor for Institutional Advancement Regina Biddings-Muro’s

Chancellor Thomas Keon points to one of his paintings in Vice Chancellor for Institutional Advancement Regina Biddings-Muro’s office.

Brooke Sotelo

Brooke Sotelo

Chancellor Thomas Keon points to one of his paintings in Vice Chancellor for Institutional Advancement Regina Biddings-Muro’s office.

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To students, Chancellor Thomas Keon is the leader of the institution. To those who work closely with him, he is also a sharp-witted, wise visionary.

Wes Lukoshus, former university spokesman, said Keon is a tireless worker who always focuses on the big picture of the university.

“He has a dry wit, which is quite refreshing. He also is a good listener and is an advocate of transparency,” Lukoshus said. “He loves his job and the business of higher education—both the good days and the challenging ones—the people with whom he serves on and off campus, and he thoroughly enjoys interacting with students.”

Keon became the chancellor of Purdue University Calumet on July 1, 2011, and was confirmed as chancellor of PNW on July 1, 2016. He said he was drawn to the university because Northwest Indiana is very similar to where he grew up. Prior to coming to the university, he served as the dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of Central Florida starting in 1997.

“I had a lot of goals and visions for what I wanted to be and by year 11 or 12, I realized that I had reached that vision. I felt like it was time to move on to a new opportunity where I could take a lot of the skills I had developed as a dean and apply them to a university,” Keon said.

Carmen Panlilio, vice chancellor for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, said Keon is not one to quit in the face of adversity or challenges. She said Keon works to persuade people when he gets ideas that he knows will benefit the university.

“He does a huge amount of work in making sure legislators, businessmen and leaders in the community understand the value of PNW,” Panlilio said.

Panlilio said she has a great respect for the chancellor and his humbleness. She said an example that stuck out in her mind was when he was named chancellor of PNW.

“I can name so many people who I know would have had big egos and want ceremonies in their honor, but his ego did not require that there be a whole ceremony because he’s so pragmatic,” Panlilio said.

Keon earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Bentley University in 1971, a master’s degree in education from Suffolk University in 1974, an MBA with emphasis in management from Babson College in 1975 and a doctoral degree in management from Michigan State University in 1979.

Keon said that if he could turn back time, he would not change anything about his life or career.

“I am very fortunate in that I’ve had a wonderful life with lots of adventures and opportunities. My whole life has centered around change so in some ways it would probably be good to have some stability, but I think I would be bored if that had happened,” Keon said. “I see change as exciting and always providing an opportunity.”

Keon said one of the ways he mulls over ideas for the university is while jogging, something he was introduced to by a friend when he was in Missouri. They had run two laps and, when it was over, he had not even noticed he had run that much.

“For me, I start jogging and after the first marker mile, I really don’t even know that I’m jogging anymore. It’s kind of about thinking about anything that is on my mind instead,” Keon said.

Regina Biddings-Muro, vice chancellor for Institutional Advancement, said one of the chancellor’s outstanding qualities is that he is very open-minded.

“He seeks out the opportunity to develop leadership by supporting and nurturing anybody he can at the university. If he himself cannot help them, he works to direct and connect that person with whoever can help them,” Biddings-Muro said.

For example, BiddingsMuro said she mentioned a graduate assistant to him who was looking to obtain a master’s in accounting. Keon immediately scheduled lunch with her and wrote her a letter of recommendation. He also gave her advice for her career.

“The joke is that you sometimes don’t know he’s giving you advice,” Panlilio said. “I’ve learned so much from him through very subtle mentoring.”

Keon said that if he was not chancellor, he would still be teaching. His two favorite courses that he has taught are organizational design and strategic management.

Keon said he still uses the information from the strategic management course when he is visiting with businesses on behalf of the university.

Keon said that instead of having one goal for the university, he has a vision of what it could become through continued accomplishments.

“My vision would be that PNW could become an institution similar to Northern Illinois University or Indiana State University except they’re not city colleges. It is my hope that this university has a high enough academic ranking and quality perception that people would not want to move away,” Keon said.


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