By Stephen Gilliland
We said goodbye to our colleague Keith Provan last week in a “Celebration of an Academic Life Well Lived.” For the past year, Keith Provan struggled with brain cancer, undergoing multiple surgeries and treatments. On the morning of Sunday, February 16, at home and surrounded by his family, Keith died peacefully.
What does it mean to celebrate an academic life well lived? For me, it meant recognizing and appreciating all the facets that made Keith the person he was. Keith joined the department the same summer I started at the University of Arizona – August 1995. I was an assistant professor and Keith was a full professor. I looked up to him. He treated me as an equal.
Keith was a gifted and dedicated organizational theorist. His research focused on inter-organizational and network relationships, including network structure, evolution, governance, and effectiveness, especially in the domain of health and human services. He published over 70 academic journal articles and scholarly book chapters, both in management and public policy journals. In summers, Keith served as a Senior Research Fellow at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. Throughout his career, Keith generously and enthusiastically mentored PhD students; he felt that the development of these relationships was his most meaningful professional legacy.
Clearly, Keith was a first rate academic and will be long recognized for his contributions. The health care management division of the Academy of Management has named their outstanding scholarly achievement award in Keith’s honor. His colleagues in public administration have named their visiting speaker series in Keith’s honor. And an endowment has been establishing in his name to support doctoral students in the area of health care management and leadership.
But a life well lived is more than a collection of academic achievements and posthumous recognitions. Keith’s children described a father who would turn into the “rapping dad” or the “incredible hulk wrestler” when they were kids. His friends and colleagues describe a sense of humor that was quick and fun. He spent summers in Europe and further escaped the Arizona heat with his wife Jill at their place in San Francisco.
Keith enjoyed everything about being an academic and would often say he never saw a reason to retire. But he also enjoyed life beyond academia. He blended academic and non-academic worlds harmoniously. Loving what you do; balancing work and life; fostering meaningful relationships; and maintaining a sense of humor right up to the end. That is a life well lived! That is a model for all of us.
We will miss you Keith.
Associate Dean, Executive Education