Keith was born in the town of Cootamundra in 1927, and as Keith always reminded anyone, this was also the birthplace of Don Bradman. Like many country children of his and previous generations, he was the first of his family to finish high school, and the first to go to university.
He commenced his academic career at the University of Sydney and graduated with First Class honours, and then completed his Diploma of Education. In those days, it was not possible to do a higher degree, like the Doctor of Philosophy in Australia, so anyone hoping to teach at a university level tried to win a scholarship to study overseas. Keith won a French Government scholarship and left to study in Paris. Despite the final terrifying ordeal of defending his thesis in a medieval courtroom atmosphere against the Sorbonne examiners, he was awarded his doctorate.
Upon returning to Australia he took up a teaching post back at his alma-mater, the University of Sydney as a teaching fellow. He enjoyed being part of french language teaching in schools and the wider community. Keith worked with the ABC on its “French for Schools “ programmes, lectured to WEA classes, produced French recordings for use in schools through Australia, was on the Alliance Francaise committee for many years, and was a member of Department of Education committees, and was Chief Examiner for the Leaving Certificate in NSW.
Returning to France in 1960 he became more and more interested in the work of one of the major French writers of the twentieth century, Francois Mauriac, who had won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1952. Keith’s work on Mauriac received the Medal of the City and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Bordeaux III.
Back home, he continued at the University of Sydney, progressing from Lecturer to Senior Lecturer, and then Associate Professor. In 1964 the NSW Government decided to set up a third city university, to be called Macquarie University. Keith was appointed as one of the founding professors, and first Head of the School of Modern Languages. In the School of Modern Languages, eventually fourteen languages were taught as part of the curriculum, while others were available in the Continuing Programme. As part of this expansion, Keith briefly visited various universities overseas to help arrange exchanges of students and teachers.
Keith was Professor of French, and Head of the School of Modern Languages for over 30 years. Somehow he also helped run open days for the general public, shows like “It’s a Small, Small World” sound and light show for over 6000 students and their teachers, ably supported by his staff. It was sometimes hectic, but always enjoyable, as Keith and his staff sought to make the study of languages a useful and worthwhile study.
He was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Literature and the title of Emeritus Professor.
Keith also tried to make Australia better known in France, speaking at conferences and writing articles. These included writing on the opening of the Opera House for a French periodical, and on Patrick White when he won the Nobel Prize.
Keith enjoyed a long and productive life. His written work will live on for students and lovers of French literature. Others may remember him for his devotion to his extended family, and to the game of tennis. He will be missed by many.