In Memoriam – Jack Keller
Jack Keller, recognized internationally for his creativity, innovations, and expertise in irrigation and water engineering and management, passed away in Denver on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013, at the age of 85. At the time of his death, Jack was working with International Development Enterprises to develop affordable irrigation technologies for small farmers in developing countries.
Prior to earning his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Colorado in 1953, Keller served in the Navy and the Air Force reserves. He earned a master’s degree in irrigation engineering from Colorado State University in 1955 and a PhD in agricultural and irrigation engineering from Utah State University in 1967.
Keller started his career in irrigation with the W.R. Ames Company before joining the engineering faculty at Utah State University in 1960. He served as department head of agricultural and irrigation engineering from 1980 to 1986. He founded and served as CEO of Keller-Bliesner Engineering LLC, an irrigation and water resources engineering firm based in Logan, Utah, providing consulting services to clients in the U.S. and internationally. His work took him to more than 60 countries in the Americas, Africa, Europe, and Asia.
Despite being dyslexic, Keller was a voracious reader and authored more than 100 technical papers and reports as well as two textbooks, and received four U.S. patents.
“Irrigation,” Keller wrote, “is very important to the well-being of the world.” Jack never retired. He dedicated his entire career to addressing challenges related to irrigation. Jack was well known in the national and international irrigation engineering communities, earning the respect of his colleagues for his creative, holistic problem solving based on rigorous engineering principles.
He was the recipient of numerous professional awards and honors including the Scientific American 50 Award. Keller was a dedicated member of the National Academy of Engineering and willingly fulfilled member responsibilities for more than 25 years. He was a 58-year ASABE member.
He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Sally Altick Keller, whom he met while studying at the University of Colorado. Other survivors are his brother Eugene; sons Andy (Lauren) and Jeff (Renee); daughter Judith (Nelson Cronyn); and grandchildren Ian, Antonia, Maria, Malayna, Erica, Max, Avery, and Zayk.
A member of the Baha’i Faith, Keller was buried in Boulder, Colo., according to Baha’i burial customs. A Celebration of Life gathering in Jack’s memory will be held in spring 2014 in Logan; details to be announced later. The family suggests memorial contributions in his name be given to Expanding Lives, 5541 N. Saint Louis Ave. Chicago, Ill. 60625, and Intermountain Bioneers, c/o Wells Fargo Bank, 5 S. Main Street, Logan, Uah 84321.
As published in Inside ASABE, December 20 2013