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Loyola celebrates the life of Antonia Keane, associate professor emerita of sociology

| By Rita Buettner
Antonia Keane, associate professor emerita of sociology

A brilliant and witty sociologist who taught at Loyola for 46 years and was actively involved in the Baltimore community, Mary Antonia Keane died April 19, 2018. She was 77.

Keane began teaching at Loyola in 1969, served as chair of the sociology department from 1972-1975, and was promoted to associate professor of sociology in 1987. She retired from Loyola in 2015.

“She had an incredibly lively mind. She was interested in what could bring a better life to our students and to the community and how education played a role in that,” said Carol “Sue” Abromaitis, Ph.D, professor of English. “She was very effective and memorable—and completely iconoclastic. She would say whatever she thought in that moment, with a little prudence, and her students would get the truth from her.”

“She had the best sense of humor and the quickest wit of anybody ever at Loyola,” Abromaitis added.

In 1986 Keane won Loyola’s highest teaching honor, the Harry W. Rodgers III Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award. 

“She was a criminologist, so she was very good at doing what it takes work for me to do with Loyola students, and that was pulling them into conversation,” said H. Lovell Smith, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology. “She did this not only with a sense of humor, but because she had an experience through her husband who’s a judge and her son who’s a lawyer. She could bring in case law and talk about things in ways that were outside the textbook.”

Keane will be remembered as a wonderful conversationalist, who enjoyed lively discussions with her faculty colleagues.

“She had a way of talking about topics layered with humor and irony that kept punching the conversation,” Smith said. “When Toni was in the room, she was in the room. Losing her now you lose more than a friend, you lose more than a colleague. You’re losing a chunk of Loyola’s legacy.”

Outside Loyola, Keane participated in the community in a variety of ways, bringing her expertise and perspective to a variety of roles, including chair of the Baltimore City Community Relations Commission, conducting research for the National Center for Urban Ethnic Affairs, and consulting for the United States Civil Rights Commission and the Urban Institute. She was part of the Southeast Baltimore community organization that successfully mounted opposition to bringing I-83 through downtown.

“That’s part of the reason it stops where it stops,” Smith said. “She’s part of major history, not just at Loyola, but in the city.

Keane, who was concerned with issues of justice, including racial justice, had been actively involved in the Spanish Apostolate at St. Patrick’s Church in Fells Point. At the time of her death, she was both a director and a trustee of the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

“In terms of today I would not call her radical because she believed in civilization, but she was a woman of the left, not a socialist, but very pro-union and pro-people who as a group had been deprived of opportunity. She was concerned with racial justice, but she was concerned with justice for everyone,” Abromaitis said. “It was fun being her BFF. We were regarded as the odd couple, because I’m as right wing as she’s left wing. The small and narrow-minded really believe there’s nothing more important than politics, and that unless we agree politically, we can’t be friends.”

Keane was involved in politics at the precinct, city, state, and national levels and, in fact, led Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s first political campaign.

“Toni Keane was a Baltimore original. She was absolutely devoted to young people, whether it was her students at Loyola University or her work with the Enoch Pratt Library, and she really wanted to be able to teach them and to empower them so that they would be these lifelong learners. But she also wanted to teach them how to be civically engaged,” said Mikulski, a 1958 graduate of Mount Saint Agnes College, which merged with Loyola in 1971. “She believed in lifelong learning, and she believed in lifelong friendship. She was brilliant, witty, and not only knew her field of sociology, but how to take theoretical sociology and apply it to the challenges of our community and herself be involved as a citizen volunteer, whether it was on judicial selection, teaching at the police academy, and of course her excellent contributions at the Enoch Pratt Library. She was certainly inspirational—and very much in the Loyola tradition.”

Keane earned her B.S. from Towson University in 1964 and her M.S. from San Jose State University in 1967 before coming to Loyola in 1969.

When Barbara Vann, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology and department chair, visited Baltimore for her campus interview in 1987, Keane picked her up at the Belvedere Hotel and brought her to Loyola on the city bus.

“What a great introduction to Baltimore and Loyola! Yes, it seemed a bit…unusual…but later when I knew Toni of course it seemed totally in line with her character. And, yes, she was a character,” Vann said. “Toni and I were colleagues for many years, and I very much appreciated her contributions to the sociology department. She was beloved by many students, maintaining contact with some long after their years at Loyola. She helped many students launch careers in the criminal justice field through placing them in internships throughout the Baltimore legal system.”

Vann recalled how when her son was young she would bring him to campus and Keane would take him outside to kick a soccer ball around the Quad.

“I didn’t realize until later that she always gave him a dollar—I knew he loved her but I thought it was just because of the soccer!” she said. “Toni has been missed since her retirement from Loyola, but at least we knew she was enjoying life beyond Loyola. Now she will really be missed.”


Thursday, April 19, 7–9 p.m.
Friday, April 20, 3–5 p.m. and 7–9 p.m.

Lilly & Zeiler Funeral Home
1901 Eastern Ave.
Baltimore, Md. 21231

Mass of Christian Burial

Saturday, April 21
9 a.m. 
Loyola Alumni Memorial Chapel
4501 N. Charles St.
Baltimore, Md. 21210


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