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Remembering Dr. Patrick Keats

Dr. Patrick Keats, longtime English professor, producer of the theatrical group the Christendom Players, and former academic dean, passed away peacefully on Friday, July 5, 2019, in his beloved wife Lily’s arms, after receiving Last Rites and the Apostolic Blessing. Keats, a husband, father, lover of literature, movies, and theater, died after a long battle with cancer. He was 67 years old.

Dr. Keats impacted many lives during his time on earth, both in the classroom and outside of it. Here are tributes to the man who gave his all, leaving behind a legacy as a result that will never be forgotten amongst all he encountered.

He was a great man, a great professor, and an amazing mentor. I certainly owe a lot of my good memories of being a student at Christendom College to him for his counseling and having worked with him in several plays. He helped me out a lot in my tough times at school and certainly was there for the really fun times on the stage.

Michael Heffernan

I had many interesting conversations and funny encounters with Dr. Patrick Keats during my time at Christendom but my favorite memory happened fall semester of my senior year in his American Drama class. I wasn’t thesising yet but I was really stressed out and had just stayed up almost all night writing two other papers. I emailed him to ask for an extension, which was something I generally avoided doing on principle. I told him I could probably get it done on time but I was exhausted and the quality of the paper would be better if I had another day. His response perfectly captures his big heart:

“Dear Emily,

Sorry I am kinda late getting back to you.

Shakespeare called sleep “nature”s soft nurse.”  Get some of it tonight!

Then, turn in the paper on Wednessay (not tomorrow).

If you have questions, get back to me.  But remember—WEDNESDAY.

Take care and God bless,  Dr. Keats.”

Dr. Keats, I hope nature’s soft nurse is finally giving you the eternal rest you’ve been longing for after so much suffering. I’ll never forget the love you had for literature, Christendom, your students, and your family. May you Rest In Peace ❤️

Emily Farabaugh

Dear uncle Pat, you are truly missed, We loved you so much. We will never forget every time you welcomed us to your house with a big smile, celebrating New Year’s Eve and always being so kind. Those memories will never be forgotten. Our hearts are broken.

Chris & Cynthia Pagan

Dr. Keats, Thank you for always believing in your students. 

For always seeing their potential and helping them carry it out.

Your shining spirit will truly be missed.

I know that you will be directing wonderful plays in Heaven.

God bless you and give you His eternal peace.

Theresa Davies

Dr. Keats was so welcoming and happy. I looked forward to every class. He never tried to over-work the students either. He just really wanted us to enjoy and understand English literature. I couldn’t have loved a course more thanks to him.

Dr. Keats was also incredibly friendly outside of class and always smiling. He was such an example of how to be filled with Christian Joy!

I am keeping his wife and children in my thoughts and prayers. I know that this is a great loss.

Thank-you for everything, Dr. Keats!

Sarah (Arnold) Gasper

Pat Keats came into the room where Pat Duffy was pointing out the silver age bits of Plautus we may have modestly overlooked in our reading.  It was about 11:30 AM a week or two into my last semester.  Two jumbo jets had just hit the first and then the second tower of the world trade center.  Some called it fake news (without using that yet unborn term), others went right back to their declensions.  I started softly singing “It’s the End of the World as We Know It.”

I’m not sure if Pat knew those lyrics but he knew lots of others.  He was the only Christendom teacher who ever came out with us to our cave along the river where we would go on weekend nights to sing and shout our barbaric yawps.  If I never addressed him as “Oh Captain, My Captain,” let me do so now.

He was our Captain through Much Ado in my freshman and 12th Night in my senior year.  He steered the virtuous course between the students who went about trying to be Dionysus and those who couldn’t understand why we would want to learn about Greek gods or why Jerusalem had to be married off to Athens to achieve our Faith.  He could explain to the uber-scrupulous why there was merit in Shakespeare despite – and because of –  its earthiness and he could check the libertine tendencies of the likes of me.

In my papers, I gave him my best work.  And, in return, he gave me his honest appraisal.  He eschewed bombast and he genuinely loved peace and brotherhood.  He loved it through laughter, music, art, and leisure as only a gentleman can.  He was a true Catholic and a true man and I am truly blessed to have had the opportunity to study under him at Christendom.

P.R. Marschner

Dr. Patrick Keats was an amazing professor and a wonderful man.  I was blessed to have him as my professor for Literature 101 and 202, and I enjoyed every minute of both.  Dr. Keats knew just how to make every class interesting, informative, interactive, and fun.  He could rouse in me interest in and appreciation for even books and stories I initially disliked.  His constant cheerfulness was contagious and his real love for and interest in his subject and in helping other people were continually apparent.  Dr. Keats always knew who needed prayers and he made sure that other people would pray as well.  Visiting him in office hours was always a personal and memorable experience.  He would ask you about your studies, your social life, anything that you were willing to discuss and wanted help with.  He always had time to help you improve your academic performance.  If any concern about the college came to mind, Dr. Keats would be the first to sit down with you and discuss it, calming you, advising you, and cheering you up.  Every student’s success and concerns were important to him.  Working with him as part of the Christendom Players in two productions, Dracula and An Evening of Shakespeare, was also an unforgettable experience.  Dr. Keats and his wife were both so important to the success of the Players.  Dr. Keats always had advice and encouragement for every member of the cast and crew whenever he saw them.  From helping rehearse lines to calming nerves backstage on opening night, Dr. Keats was an essential part of each play.  He was the first to tell you what to improve in your performance and also the first to congratulate you when you did well.  Finally, his love for his family was apparent to everyone who knew him and set a beautiful example for every student at Christendom College.  Dr. Keats was an irreplaceable member of the Christendom community and he will be deeply mourned by everyone whose life he touched.

I spent my freshman year at Christendom, in the fall of 2014 and spring of 2015, and I had the great pleasure of playing the Boy in Dr. Keats’ production of “The Moonstone.” He was an astute director, who brought out the best in our performances – I remember my anxiety about having to speak with a Cockney accent as my character, and how we sat in his office one afternoon, as he guided me line by line through my part, helping me to perfect the pronunciation of each word. I am immensely grateful for the sense of confidence he gave me as an actress. And I am thankful for his joyful spirit with which he blessed me every time we met on campus – he was a jovial beam of sunlight, always ready with a smile and a greeting. When I first visited Christendom as a senior in high school, my conversation with him, in which he eloquently explained what the English department had to offer, was a major factor in my decision process. To conclude, I am blessed l to have known him. May flights of angels sing him to his rest, and may God grant his family peace, strength, and hope.  

Isabel Azar

It is a sad day for our Christendom community, but a joyous one for the Church Triumphant. I was fortunate to know Dr. Keats in a few different capacities over the years, and it was evident how deeply he cared about the relationships he had with his students, colleagues, friends and family. Indeed, he was a master of the “impromptu, hallway conversation.” It didn’t matter what class he was about to teach or what meeting he was rushing into, he was always willing to stop and delve into a deep conversation regarding the sublime intentions of Kurtz in Heart of Darkness, or give his opinion on why a particular screenplay was overrated. Dr. Keats cared deeply for his craft of literature and the arts, and sought to inspire this love and understanding in his students and the Christendom community at large–even if it meant he would be late for his next appointment. His willingness to serve was so great that he would volunteer to help me judge swing dance competitions or step in to help with a production even when he was juggling 3,000 other things.

His whole disposition was one of kindness.Yes, Dr. Keats could be passionately fiery if an act wasn’t going the way he anticipated or if some outside, devious force interfered with one of his shows. However,  more often then not, he laughed easily and often at the humor and kindness he demonstrated and encountered during the many years I knew him. In The House of the Dead, Dostoyevsky wrote that, “One can know a man from his laugh, and if you like a man’s laugh before you know anything of him, you may confidently say that he is a good man.” One could simply observe the way Dr. Keats interacted with his students and hear the joyous timbre of his voice down the hall, to know that there–ready to make time for another conversation–was truly a good man.  Until we meet again…

Greg Monroe

Dear Pat,

We are all rallying behind you with our prayers.

Bill Titus and I were reminiscing about our theater productions done with you at the Heights and I realize that I have to thank you for helping me form the foundation of my self esteem that has carried me through life.

I do not know if I was all that great an acting talent, but you believed in me and gave me leading role opportunities that subsequently helped me in future years.  Whenever I faced daunting tasks, I mentally reminded myself that I was a lead in several plays so “I can handle this.”  I would not have been able to think that if it weren’t for you.

Both Bill and I agree that you got us out of our comfort zones, believed in us and helped us accomplish things that we never thought we had the skill or potential to achieve by performing in front of audiences.

You were always encouraging but I remember how you would slam down your program and yell at us when things weren’t going so well. I admired that to this day because you had high standards and demanded the best from us – and somehow you always got it. I admired how you stretched us to achieve what we did not think we had in us.

There are a handful of people that made an strong impact on me in my life and you are certainly one of them.

Godspeed my friend.

Nico Smyth

My husband attended Christendom from 1999-2001, and I entered in 1999 and graduated in 2003 with a B.A. in English Literature.  Dr. Keats was my thesis director, quite naturally as at that time I was only the second English major in the college history to choose to write a thesis on Jane Austen (I am sure there have been many more since).  Dr. Keats once said in class that “Real men love Jane Austen.” I have quoted this to my own sons as they approach their high school years when they, too, will begin writing book reports on Pride and Prejudice. 😊

Being an English major, I took a class under Dr. Keats every semester of my college tenure. He was always so cheerful and helpful. He even humored some of my odd ideas for papers (case in point: Poe’s “Gold Bug” as a framed tale…). I don’t think I ever got higher than his famous A-/B+ grade, even on my thesis!

One of my favorite Dr. Keats memories happened two weeks after my college graduation in May, 2003.  Our wedding was scheduled for the end of May in Indiana (my home state). When the RSVPs were slated to arrive at my parents’ house, Dr. Keats was unsure whether he would be able to make the trip. A few days before the wedding, my mom received a phone call–a last minute RSVP–and even though I was sitting at the kitchen table when the call arrived, my mom tried hard not to let on who was calling.  It was Dr. Keats, and he could make it after all.  He greeted us at our wedding reception with such a smile—he had meant to surprise us, and it had worked. We were so happy he had made it, and so grateful he had made the trip.

The final time I saw Dr. Keats in person (although we have sent Christmas cards every year since 2003) was at my sister’s Christendom graduation four years later.  He was soon to be married to Lily, and he was so happy. SO happy. He grinned from ear to ear and proudly pulled out his wallet to show me picture after picture he kept there of his beloved.  We were so happy for both of them! I am only sorry that we never did make it back to Christendom at a time when we could have seen both Dr. & Mrs. Keats together. The loss is ours.

Lily, be assured of our prayers for you and the dear twins at this time.  We are all mourning with you. God bless and much love.

Theresa (Ford) Fisher & Ben Fisher

I am so sad to lose Patrick, a truly great friend and mentor in my life. He has had such a strong impact on my personal life, that I will always cherish those memories and continue to draw from his example and wisdom.  I truly will deeply miss him.  My first personal experience with Patrick goes back around 25 years ago when I was 15 and was cast as the Artful Dodger in Oliver.  He directed me in that play and many more to follow. He has been a mentor and friend to me ever since.

I have multiple stories and memories of Patrick, which I will definitely share, but for now, I just recently posted this one to Facebook, and I’ll copy it here now:

One memory that comes to the forefront is one of my earliest memories of Patrick Keats – during several of the various talent shows at Christendom, from Coffee House to St. Cecilia’s Night, he delivered a great monologue called “Take a Pew” – originally delivered by a comedian named Alan Bennett. I had to spend a little time googling it for reference and I finally found a video of the original monologue. Does anyone have a video of Patrick doing this? I remember Patrick’s delivery being far superior. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0qOD9rtOEE

I send my prayers and deepest condolences to Lilly and their children. 

Danny Schneible

My favorite memories of Dr Keats are from the Christendom plays.  I helped with costumes/was an extra for most of the plays while attending Christendom. The day before performing Lady Windermere’s Fan my freshman year, one of the actresses got sick and I took her place.  There were a million things to do before the show, but Dr Keats took the time to go over my lines/blocking with me over and over until I was completely comfortable. He was always so calm and reasonable before the shows even when everyone else was freaking out!  I remember him telling us not to panic, it would all work out…even when we were sewing actors into their costumes literally as they walked on stage!  Dr Keats was a great example of trust and patience, and I will never forget what I learned from him!

Kinsey (Benz) Johnston

My fondest memory of Dr Keats comes from when I went through a rather dark period at Christendom. I had recently come down with a very severe fever and so was bedridden and unable to leave my dorm room. At one point, through miscommunication or forgetfulness, I was left without food for several hours during my illness. As it happened, Dr. Keats needed to get in touch with me over a play I was auditioning for and had been unable to find me at lunch. When he learned I was bedridden with a fever in my dorm room, he came over to the dorm with food and drink for me and to check on my condition. His kindness in this act touched my heart in more ways than he ever could have imagined. Upon checking on me and talking with me about the business we had, he promised to inform the nurse and have her check on me and then passed the word to some of my other friends to check on me also. His genuine concern from the heart radiated in these acts and I have always kept a special place in my heart for him.

I remember when I wanted to write an English paper comparing Shakespeare’s character ‘Puck’ from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to the cartoon Pink Panther. Many of my classmates were skeptical about how the idea would work, as was my English teacher at the time, and I was having difficulty figuring out how to proceed with it.

Even though I was not in Dr Keats’ class, I decided to run the idea by him and see what help he could give me. He encouraged me to write the paper and gave me pointers on how to make the comparison as well as how to approach the point. Without his help I don’t think I could have completed the paper on that topic and gotten as good a grade as I did. I have always fondly remembered those times we spent together with him sharing his great literary wisdom.

I also remember from when we were doing the play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. I was playing the “Wall” and was still refining my acting skills. Dr. Keats taught me some of the more subtle acting tricks to make my performance even more effective. Things as simple as ‘changing tone of voice’, which helped to make my performance a far more effective and memorable one.

He was a great man and a great teacher. I will miss him sorely. I have every confidence we will see him again in heaven. God Bless you Dr. Patrick Keats and Thank You.

Grant Dahl

My favorite was from 2018. My son, John Paul, was walking across campus, talking to me on his cellphone. Dr. Keats came up to him and asked if he was talking to his mom (me). John Paul said yes, and Dr. Keats asked if he could have the phone and talk to me. We went on to talk for at least 15 or 20 minutes. I loved him – such a good and holy man!! ❤️ Also, not only was he my kids’ Professor, but he taught my husband and brothers in high school up in Boston.

Jill Cook

 I knew Pat my whole life. From a young age, I remember him as a vibrant member of the community and a dear friend of my parents. He was always involved in our annual summer Shakespeare plays and even led a book club for me and several of my highschool friends. I remember distinctly one summer, at one of our play practices, he came up to a group of us and said, with a huge grin on his face, “Guys. I’m engaged.” The joy was palpable and I will never forget how happy he was.

Catherine Briggs

I remember him ducking out of classes to take calls from Lily while they were dating, and we were all like little kids again, giggling and winking about it.

Beth Collins

I loved that book Club [that Dr. Keats offered locally once] and have so many wonderful memories from it!! It was the first book club I ever attended and confirmed my deep love of the written word and C.S. Lewis!

I was taking a high school Literature class from Dr. Keats when he got married and I will never forget him walking into class after coming back from his wedding with his hair dyed blond and he was just floating on air he was so happy!! I remember being so baffled and amazed by their love story after seeing their wedding pics! Lovable, literature loving, confirmed bachelor meets a crazy beautiful woman from Peru and is suddenly not the confirmed bachelor I thought he was 😂❤️ So many wonderful memories.

Kaitlyn Fox

We used to hold the book club at my house. It was offered for local teens. We read Rebecca and several other novels. The teens loved it. Sometimes parents would sit in too. Dr. Keats always had some great story to tell or some trivia.

Susan Hibl

There are so many memories but this one is the one that always comes first to mind.

When I was 18 and fighting serious home sickness my first semester at Christendom, he asked me to stay after class one day to talk. I think he saw I was barely holding it together. I was on the verge of tears and he listened patiently and kindly and the advice he gave me I have taken to heart and used daily for the past twenty one years. He said to always find something to smile about every day. It could be something I saw that day or a memory but that smiling every day was so important. Especially on those exceptionally hard days. If you could smile or laugh then it is harder to stay sad and you are more likely to see the good and the positive. This has helped me through so many exceptionally hard days in my life. It has helped form me into the person I am today.

Catherine Bacik

 My favorite memory is still my Ronan’s First birthday party (which was a terrible idea in the first place), but Pat brought Robbie and Lucy by and came back three hours after it ended. They were high on sugar, running in circles around the living room and adjacent rooms…Pat was trying to catch them. They were laughing hysterically and I was laughing so hard, I didn’t even want to catch them. Eventually, we caught them both. Every year, it was ritual for them to come to Ronan’s and Vice versa…the most anticipated day of the year because Lily and Pat always put so much thought into birthday parties for the twins. I will never forget the last one in February, where I was actually able to sit and talk with Pat and laugh. There’s a gaping hole for Ronan and me, as we think of the loss in our lives, but most especially for Lily, Robbie and Lucy. He was THE MAN!!!

Anne-Sofie Hickson

Once we were reading “In Cold Blood” in Keats’ American novel class a few years back (one of my favorite classes in all of college along with his 20th Century American Drama) and he was on a tangent, as he was often know to do, about Truman Capote and some of his personal quirks. Keats then tried to do an impression of Capote’s super unique, rather high-pitched voice, which if you ever heard the real thing, you’ll know how entertaining Keats’ attempt was. We all certainly got a good laugh out of it, including Keats.

Kayla Newcomb

Dr. Keats always struck me as a very kind individual. He always smiled and spoke with a pleasant tone. In combination with his light sense of humor, he was wonderful man to be around. I am blessed to have been able to study under him and am thankful for all his assistance as a teacher. 

 One memory of him that stuck with me was when he asked me to stay behind after class one time. I had been sleep-deprived the entire week due to studies and was somewhat concerned when he made this request. However, he said he noticed that I seemed a bit out of it and asked if everything was okay. I was touched by the kindness he expressed.

I miss him dearly. May the good Lord reward the good doctor for his charity.

Christopher Tran

My name is Sarah (Daley) Rose. Dr. Keats taught me English Lit when I went to the Experience Christendom summer program and again for Eng 102. The first thing I remember him saying (back in 2004, introducing himself to me and the other high schoolers) was that he was single and asking if we knew a nice lady for him. It made me smile that he wasn’t afraid to speak what was on his heart.

I also loved the way he bounced when he walked. And he had a great smile.

I loved the way he gave an introduction before every play, giving us context and helping us to see the story with his eyes. He had a great eye, mind, and heart for a good story.

He introduced me to “The Hint of An Explanation,” one of my all-time favorite stories.

When he married Lily, I loved seeing how happy he was with her. And when they had Robby and Lucy, I loved seeing how kind and gentle he was as a father.

I will miss him.

Sarah Rose

As a former religion teacher at Sacred Heart on Winchester, Va I was elated to discover Dr. Keats had volunteered to be a co-reacher for our Confirmation preparation class a few years ago. As we progressed through the classes, the students and I were blessed with his insights and sensitivity to the human condition.  He was certainly a model and example of our need to develop a personal relationship with God.  Lily and the children were also joyful and helpful assistance for the Sacred Heart Religious Education program.

Ed Farinholt

It has been almost forty years that I first met the Keats family. Paul, Carla and their three sons were neighbors for many years. I have been blessed to call them dear friends. Over time, I had the privilege to meet the entire Keats family. Patrick was a ray of sunshine in his enthusiasm for life. I last saw Patrick, Lily and their beautiful children a few years ago when we shared Christmas dinner.

I will remember him always. For his family, my heart is broken. My prayers are with them.

Carolyn Smith

Compared to some, I didn’t have much time as a student with Dr. Keats. I only ever studied under him at the ECSP and in my last semester. However, despite that brevity, I retain a strong impression of what he was like: full of cheerfulness; extremely kind to everyone; joyfully passionate in his work for Christendom, whether in the classroom or the theater; a man of true faith and a truly good heart. As a professor, he made works of literature come alive, but still more importantly, he genuinely cared about each of his students. I am thankful that I had the chance to know him, as are, I know, so many others. May he rest now in the enjoyment of God’s Presence, and may Christendom always be blessed with such men to uphold its standards as a Catholic community of learning. 

Dr. Keats is mourned not only in Christendom and in different parts of America, but also is Hungary.

Quite a few Hungarian students had the opportunity to spend a semester at Christendom College thanks to Dr. Kelly’s foundation in the late 1990s. Three of them were: Gyopár, Dávid and Ildikó (myself). We were closely acquianted with Dr. Keats, because we attenden his classes, and as we have seen from the other reflections, it ment long conversations with the professor during his office hours.

One of the first tasks he gave us was to make an interview with someone on campus, and write a paper about this person.  I suddenly had a weird idea; since Dr. Keats had an interesting personality, I decided to interview himself. He was surprised and delighted at the same time, and he answered all my questions in great details. I recorded his voice with my old mini tape recorder, and I still have this treasure… In the last 20 years I moved several times, but I still have the tape, and sometimes I listen to it.

Since I was seriously interested in English literature, and I was already graduated, Dr. Keats and I became good friends. He understood my problem of being a shy and introverted person in a different culture, and he decided to  show me around in DC and in the countriside. In return I cooked some Hungarian dishes for him. Due to his searching natue he was interested in other cultures, and I had the opportunity to “teach him” something new which he was listening with great inquiries. After my leaving the US, we had a correspondence for several years. He encouraged me and also became a model for me to be a teacher. Later when technology developped even faster, I could follow his new life and see him in his new roles, too.  I am really grateful to God for his friendship, and I can fully understand the loss what his death means to everybody.

I bid you farewell, my Friend, but I ask you to pray for us, and I believe that we will see each other sooner or later in the world you have already entered.

Ildiko Fehér Holczmann

When I first joined the Christendom faculty in 2001, Pat stood out as one of the warmest and most welcoming of my colleagues, and his unstinting collegiality, charity, and humility were among his most significant contributions to the life of our department and to the College community.  His enduring devotion to his students both within and outside the classroom and beyond graduation defined for me the distinctive character of the faculty at Christendom.  It was apparent to me from my earliest experience here that Pat truly believedin Christendom College; he believed that an academic community unified with—and reflective of—Christ would best enable its members to flourish and to influence the larger human community for the better. The quiet courage with which he faced his final challenges further evinced the inspiring strength of his faith.  I find peace knowing that the innumerable people Pat has touched throughout his life are now united in fervent prayer for him and for wife and children.

Thomas W. Stanford III, Ph.D.

Compared to some, I didn’t have much time as a student with Dr. Keats. I only ever studied under him at the ECSP and in my last semester. However, despite that brevity, I retain a strong impression of what he was like: full of cheerfulness; extremely kind to everyone; joyfully passionate in his work for Christendom, whether in the classroom or the theater; a man of true faith and a truly good heart. As a professor, he made works of literature come alive, but still more importantly, he genuinely cared about each of his students. I am thankful that I had the chance to know him, as are, I know, so many others. May he rest now in the enjoyment of God’s Presence, and may Christendom always be blessed with such men to uphold its standards as a Catholic community of learning.

Sarah Greydanus

In the fall semester of 2009 I had a bad accident that left me in a wheelchair. The prescription painkillers I was given were so powerful that I could hardly read, and I started to fall behind in my classes. I didn’t see how I could continue. So one afternoon I wheeled around to Dr. Keats’ office (he was Academic Dean at the time) to say I would probably have to drop out of the semester. He listened, asked a few questions, and finally talked me into staying on by cutting back my dosage to read better. I went away feeling more optimistic, and it ended up being the right decision. I’ve always been grateful that he believed in me enough to get me to stick it out. 

Joe Wagner

He’s the first Christendom professor that I was close with who has passed away. I’m considering him my first “Christendom Saint” I’m calling him St. Pat. I’m asking for his intercession for my new marriage and all the work I’m trying to do through my diocese to restore all things in Christ. I printed the attached picture of him out and have it hanging in my office.

Brad Torline