On May 19, at the Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse at 500 Pearl Street, the 9th Floor Ceremonial Courtroom for the Southern District of New York was renamed the Hon. John F. Keenan Ceremonial Courtroom. The Regis community celebrates and applauds this significant and well-deserved honor for Judge Keenan '47.
After graduating from Regis in 1947 and Manhattan College in 1951, Keenan earned a law degree from Fordham University in 1954. Upon graduating, his legal career was put on hold to join the U.S. Army, where he was assigned to the Army Security Agency and stationed in Tokyo from 1954 to 1956 during the Korean War.
Soon after completing his service and after a four month stint at a law firm—the entirety of his time in private practice—Keenan found his way to the District Attorney's office, where he was appointed assistant district attorney in New York County. He later served as chief assistant under District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. While chief assistant, Keenan led the homicide bureau during its prosecutions of some of the most notable murder cases in New York City. President Ronald Reagan appointed Keenan to the position of United States district judge for the Southern District of New York in 1983, a position he has held for 33 years.
Whether as a prosecutor, the chair of New York’s Off-Track Betting Corporation, or an adviser to his peers on the federal bench, Judge Keenan’s legal skills and intelligence have been paired with unquestioned integrity and sound judgment. Keenan’s tenure on the bench has also overseen a long list of Regians clerking and working for "the boss everyone wants," as described by Pat Connorton '99. Those relationships have created a legacy of Regians who strive to emulate his style and work ethic in their own careers.
"Judge Keenan is incredibly knowledgeable, experienced, kind, and fair," said Connorton. "Clerking for him was truly an honor and a joy. I was particularly fortunate to work for Judge Keenan as part of an All-Regis chambers, along with my co-clerk Chuck Keeley '00 and John Hein '02 our intern."
A similar sentiment was shared by Bill Craco '82, who served as one of Judge Keenan's law clerks immediately after his own graduation from Fordham Law School. "He has served with distinction over some of the most significant criminal and civil matters of the day with intelligence, dignity, and unerring fairness," said Craco. "He has dedicated virtually his entire career to public service, and has an unequaled reputation as a brilliant trial lawyer and judge."
Craco notes that it is all the more remarkable to witness that, despite his achievements and reputation, Kennan remains a genuinely modest man whose self-effacing sense of humor is legendary. "Those of us lucky enough to call him a mentor and loyal friend know that he embodies all of the qualities and values that Regis seeks to develop in the young Christian men it sends into the world—faith, service to others, and intellectual rigor."
Craco also remarked that Keenan is known equally as a loving husband, father, and grandfather. When asked in a recent profile in The Federal Lawyer what he considers his greatest accomplishment, Keenan answered on cue: "The fact that I've convinced my wife to stay married to me." He and his wife, Diane, have been married for more than 59 years.
Reflecting upon the renaming of the Ceremonial Courtroom, Judge Keenan says it is "a great honor to have." He also noted the role Regis has continued to play in his life. "My training at Regis has had a tremendous impact on me and my legal career. Regis taught me a lasting recognition of moral values and dedication to scholarship which has affected every aspect of my life."
Pictured: Judge Keenan '47 poses with Regians in attendance at the courtroom dedication, including classmate Jim McGarry '47, Hon. John G. Koeltl '63, and Todd Cosenza '91.