Robert V. Keeley

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For other people named Robert Keeley, see Robert Keeley (disambiguation).
Robert V. Keeley
United States Ambassador to Mauritius
In office
June 23, 1976 – September 17, 1978
President Gerald Ford
Jimmy Carter
Preceded by Philip W. Manhard
Succeeded by Samuel Rhea Gammon III
United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe
In office
May 23, 1980 – February 20, 1984
President Jimmy Carter
Ronald Reagan
Preceded by none
Succeeded by David Charles Miller, Jr.
United States Ambassador to Greece
In office
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Monteagle Stearns
Succeeded by Michael G. Sotirhos
Personal details
Born Robert Vossler Keeley
(1929-09-04)September 4, 1929
Beirut, French Lebanon
Died January 9, 2015(2015-01-09) (aged 85)
Washington, D.C., United States
Spouse(s) Louise Benedict Schoonmaker
Children 2; Michal, Chris
Profession Diplomat
Military service
Service/branch United States Coast Guard[1]
Years of service 1953–55

Robert Vossler Keeley (September 4, 1929 – January 9, 2015) had a 34-year career in the Foreign Service of the United States, from 1956 to 1989. He served three times as Ambassador: to Greece (1985–89), Zimbabwe (1980–84), and Mauritius (1976–78). In 1978–80 he was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, in charge of southern and eastern Africa.

Earlier in his career he had assignments as Deputy Chief of Mission in Cambodia (1974–75) and Uganda (1971–73), and as Deputy Director of the Interagency Task Force for the Indochina Refugees (1975–76). His other foreign postings were as Political Officer in Jordan, Mali, and Greece. In Washington he served as Congo (Zaire) desk officer, and as alternate director for East Africa. At his retirement in 1989 Keeley held the rank of Career Minister.

The same year he received the Christian Herter Award from the American Foreign Service Association for "extraordinary accomplishment involving initiative, integrity, intellectual courage, and creative dissent." At other stages in his career he earned the Superior Honor Award (for Cambodia), a Presidential Citation (for the Refugee Task Force), and a Presidential Distinguished Service Award (for Zimbabwe). In 1985 he was elected President of the American Foreign Service Association.

From November 1990 to January 1995 Ambassador Keeley served as President of the Middle East Institute in Washington, a private, non-profit educational and cultural institution founded in 1946 to foster greater understanding in the United States of the countries of the Middle East region from Morocco to Central Asia.

Early life, education, and military service

Keeley was born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1929,[2] where his late father, American diplomat James Hugh Keeley, Jr., was serving as the American Consul. Keeley was educated in Canada, Greece, Belgium, and the United States. He graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1951, with a major in English literature under the Special Program in the Humanities. His senior thesis was a novel with a critical preface, the first such "creative writing" undergraduate dissertation authorized. His brother Edmund Keeley also graduated from Princeton. Robert continued with graduate work at Princeton in English, and later, while in the Foreign Service, he held graduate fellowships at Stanford and at Princeton in public and international affairs. He did his military service in the U.S. Coast Guard during the Korean War (1953–55) as commanding officer of an 83-foot patrol boat.


Keeley is married to the former Louise Benedict Schoonmaker and they have two children. His daughter, Michal, a graduate of Princeton, is a retired editor. His son, Chris, earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in photography from the Corcoran School of Art in 1988 and a Master's in Social Work from Catholic University in 1997, and is an artist and licensed social worker working for the D.C. Government in child welfare services while also engaged in drug abuse counseling.


Keeley's current affiliations are: the Cosmos Club of Washington, the American Foreign Service Association, Diplomatic and Consular Officers Retired, the Princeton Club of Washington, the Washington Institute of Foreign Affairs, the Literary Society, and the American Academy of Diplomacy.

Current work

Currently, Keeley is Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Council for the National Interest. In addition he works as a free-lance writer, lecturer, and consultant, based in Washington. His interests are not confined to foreign affairs, but extend to issues of domestic politics, economics, and social policy.[citation needed] He has written two memoirs covering portions of his career: Uganda under the rule of Idi Amin Dada (1971–73), and Greece under "the Colonels" (1966–68), both of which remain mostly unpublished because of sensitivity concerns.[citation needed] One chapter of the Uganda book has been published in Embassies Under Siege: Personal Accounts by Diplomats on the Front Line (Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Georgetown University, Brassey's, 1995) entitled "Crisis Avoidance: Shutting Down Embassy Kampala, 1973."

In 1995 Ambassador Keeley founded the Five and Ten Press Inc., a publishing company whose purpose is to publish in inexpensive format (booklets and pamphlets) original articles, essays, and other short works of fiction and non-fiction rejected or ignored by the media and mainstream publishers. The press was incorporated in the District of Columbia in February 1996. The name comes from the intention to price the products of the press at between five and ten dollars a copy. The press's first publication was a pamphlet entitled D.C. Governance: It's Always Been a Matter of Race and Money, issued in December 1995, and the second was a booklet with the title Annals of Investing: Steve Forbes vs. Warren Buffett, published in March 1996. A third, The File: A Princeton Memoir, was published in May 1996. All three have the same author: the publisher, whose business card identifies his profession as "Consulting Iconoclast."[citation needed] As of October 1996 the Press began to sell its publications on a subscription basis, and also through the Internet. Subscribers have now received 12 new titles. The Press currently has more than 200 subscribers, and nearly breaks even financially.[citation needed]

In 2000 Keeley contributed a chapter on CIA-Foreign Service Relations to the book, National Insecurity-U.S. Intelligence After the Cold War, a work recommending reforms of the CIA, published by Temple University Press for the Center for International Policy. Also in 2000 Keeley edited a book for the American Academy of Diplomacy entitled First Line of Defense-Ambassadors, Embassies and American Interests Abroad that advocates greater reliance on and better funding for American diplomacy in conflict resolution and protecting our national security. Keeley also edited two yearbooks for the 50th reunion of Princeton's Class of 1951 in the year 2001. In 2010 Keeley published the book The Colonels' Coup and the American Embassy: A Diplomat's View of the Breakdown of Democracy in Cold War Greece.[3] Keeley died after an apparent stroke in January 2015.[4]