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Dr. Robert and Joanne Keener were both public school music teachers, and together they moved often before landing in Swannanoa. Dr. Keener became the choral director of Warren Wilson College in 1964 and served as the chair of the Department of Music—“actually, its only full-time person,” he says. The Keeners came to the College community at a time when enrollment was around 200 students, no one had cars, and faculty and staff took on parental roles with the young minds on campus. In this manner, as both a musician and a mentor, Dr. Keener, along with Joanne, touched the lives of many Warren Wilson students.
The Keeners’ impact on community, however, stretched beyond the Warren Wilson campus. Dr. Keener was also the founder of the Asheville Choral Society and its director from 1977 to 2000. Warren Wilson provided both rehearsal and performance space for the Choral Society, with most of their concerts held in Kittredge Theatre. Through the Asheville Choral Society, Dr. Keener brought singers from several cities and towns throughout Western North Carolina together on campus, and provided the Warren Wilson and larger Asheville communities the opportunity to enjoy and appreciate chorus music. The chorus, which concentrated on performing choral literature from all stylistic periods, was invited to perform with the Asheville and North Carolina symphonies, as well as at festivals such as Asheville’s Bele Chere and Charleston’s Piccolo Spoleto and with both national and international tours. During his career, Dr. Keener also served as coordinator of the Swannanoa Chamber Music Festival and music director for the Montreat Conference Center.
“A choral conductor,” Dr. Keener once described, “must inspire; must pull out of people what they don’t realize they can do so the music can reach heights of beauty that inspire performers and listeners alike.” Dr. Keener, along with his wife, certainly inspired.
To pay tribute to the song and service this couple provided Warren Wilson College and the larger community, friends began an effort to endow a scholarship in their names. With over 90 percent of Warren Wilson students receiving institutional assistance, scholarships are essential to our students and our College. They help Warren Wilson College attract and retain students of high academic caliber and personal merit, regardless of their financial situation, and help realize student dreams. When scholarships are endowed, they become perpetual, permanent funds that continue to grow and provide a stable stream of revenue above those generated from student tuition and annual giving campaigns.
An endowed scholarship at Warren Wilson College requires a minimum of $25,000 in total funds. Once endowed, the College invests the principal for growth and allocates earnings of about five percent each year to qualifying students; approximately $1,250 will be awarded the first year, and increasingly more scholarship dollars will be awarded each year thereafter. All Warren Wilson students needing financial aid will be eligible to apply for the Robert and Joanne Keener Scholarship Fund. We hope you will consider making a gift to this scholarship.
If you would like to make a gift to help the Robert and Joanne Keener Scholarship Fund reach and exceed the required $25,000 minimum for endowment, you may do so in one of the following ways: