When the Barton Community College Foundation received memorial funds honoring the late Robert P. Keenan, his family asked that part of those funds be given to Barton’s Learning Resource Center and they designated that the remainder go to help the college’s Shafer Gallery in some way.
Barton’s Executive Director of Institutional Advancement Darnell Holopirek and Shafer Gallery Director Dave Barnes put their heads together and determined that a good use of the funds would be to help bring live music to the gallery’s receptions. The Keenan family wholeheartedly agreed.
Barnes welcomed this gift with gratitude. "We wanted to have music of outstanding quality to create just the right ambience for our receptions," Barnes said. "This gift will help make this music possible." The Robert Keenan Memorial Music Series began providing this music for the gallery in April.
Music during the April 3 opening reception for the John Morrison and Central Kansas Photography Club Exhibition was provided by the Fort Hays State University Phat Cats, an ensemble of outstanding music majors from the university, Barnes noted.
Two later receptions showcased the musical talents from Barton’s own music faculty. For the Barton Student Exhibition May 1, Barton’s piano and organ instructor Karole Erikson played the college’s new synthesizer acquired through a grant for the music department.
On May 22, music for the opening of the Birger Sandzén exhibit featured Barton’s instrumental music director Steven Lueth, an accomplished jazz pianist who has performed with "The Diamonds," "Little Anthony and the Imperials" and Myron Floren, and has composed musical arrangements for the Fort Hays Symphony, Sen. Bob Dole as well as for Great Bend community bands and Barton Community College music ensembles.
"Because of the Robert Keenan memorial, these outstanding musical performances will become a tradition at Shafer Gallery receptions," Barnes said.
Keenan served on Barton Community College’s Board of Trustees for 20 years, 14 of those years as the board chairman. He was named recipient of the Barton Foundation’s Distinguished Service Award in 1993 and co-Outstanding Trustee in the Western Division of American Community Colleges of the United States.
Locally, Keenan served as president of the Great Bend Jaycees, exalted grand ruler of B.P.O.E. Lodge No. 1127 and president of Kiwanis. He was also a member of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Episcopal men’s breakfast club and the Episcopal Bishop’s committee of the Western Kansas Diocese. He died in October 2008 at the age of 85.