Alumni couple’s passion for the environment leads to undergraduate research support in the University Libraries
Susan and Dave Keesee are passionate about environmental sustainability and the success of Virginia Tech students.
As a result, the 1983 graduates created the Susan and David Keesee Endowment for Undergraduate Research within the University Libraries to provide support for undergraduate research related to government policy and environmental sustainability — the first undergraduate research endowment in the University Libraries.
“Because we were both undergraduates at Virginia Tech, and I received a scholarship from the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists and industry support for a group undergraduate research project, I understand what this type of support means to an undergraduate student,” said Susan Keesee.
“Through Susan’s and Dave’s generosity in creating this first-of-its-kind endowment in the University Libraries, undergraduate students from across the university, regardless of discipline, can work together to solve real-world challenges in the area of sustainability and public policy,” said Tyler Walters, dean of the University Libraries. “We are very grateful for Susan’s and Dave’s dedication and support of the University Libraries at Virginia Tech.”
The Keesees met in their freshman English class. He chose Virginia Tech to study forestry. She came to study clothing and textiles. Both were co-op students near Hopewell, Virginia, beginning in 1979, a few years after a costly chemical disaster at a nearby manufacturer of the insecticide Kepone.
After four work quarters, Dave Keesee decided the forest products industry was not for him and changed his major to accounting. Since graduation, Dave has worked in audit, accounting, and information technology, most recently serving as vice president for global finance shared services for IQVIA. Susan was a textiles professional for almost 20 years until changing careers to health sciences librarianship in 2002.
When the Keesees moved to North Carolina for career opportunities, they purchased a Flying Scot sailboat and sailed nearby lakes and the Neuse River.
“We enjoyed the opportunity to be outside in the combination of ideal winds and clean water,” said Dave Keesee. “In the 1990s, however, there was tremendous growth in industrial hog farming in our state, and legislation supported changes in industry practice that conflicted with our expectations for clean water. During this time, we became more informed about public policy and how legislators and lobbyists are at odds protecting the interests of industry, nearby residents, and citizens.”
Because of their personal concern for environmental impacts, the Keesees adopted environmental sustainability in their daily life by building a passive solar home with a 4.4 KV photovoltaic system. In 2016, they purchased a small and very light camper called a Cricket.
“We chose that camper for fuel conservation reasons,” said Susan Keesee. “We did not want to consume more fuel towing the camper than we did towing our sailboat. Now, we are enjoying more trips outdoors, particularly when it is a vacation that can include our dogs.”
“We made choices in our lives that we believe help future generations,” added Dave Keesee. “We hope the endowment will provide much needed support for undergraduate researchers to study and consider environmental sustainability in solving current challenges. They can create new knowledge for restoring and improving environmental quality for communities and making public policy to better guide decisions for the quality of life for people and animals.”
The Keesees said partnering with the University Libraries to create the endowment intersects all colleges at the university.
“It was important to us that this funding benefits projects in which undergraduates could enrich their education by being turned on to research at Virginia Tech,” said Susan Keesee. “As we reflected on this, the endowment is interdisciplinary, like us, and feels more like seed money to help with discovery towards better sustainability.”
“Through our participation on the University Libraries’ advisory council, we have learned more about how the University Libraries serves today’s students, staff, and faculty," said Dave Keesee. “We hope to inspire others to consider similar gifts to the University Libraries at Virginia Tech.”