The Regis Bar Association on September 25 launched its new Hon. John F. Keenan ’47 Lecture Series with a fascinating discussion with Judge Keenan himself. Keenan, the legendary former prosecutor and longtime federal judge, returned to Regis and entertained roughly 100 alumni and friends with memories of the notable cases he has prosecuted and presided over.
Todd Cosenza ’91, a partner at Willkie Farr & Gallagher, deftly my moderated the conversation, which is the first in a new annual series that will feature distinguished lawyers from the Regis family. The series is fittingly named given Keenan’s sterling legal career.
After graduating from Regis in 1947 and Manhattan College in 1951, Keenan earned a law degree from Fordham University in 1954. His law career was put on hold to join the U.S. Army, where he was assigned to the Army Security Agency and stationed in Tokyo from 1954 to 1956 during the Korean War. Soon after completing his service and after a four-month stint at a law firm — the only time he spent in private practice — Keenan found his way to the District Attorney's office, where he was appointed assistant district attorney in New York County. He later served as chief assistant under District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. While chief assistant, Keenan led the homicide bureau during its prosecutions of some of the most notable murder cases in New York City.
President Ronald Reagan appointed Keenan to the position of United States district judge for the Southern District of New York in 1983, a position he has held for 36 years. On May 19, 2016 at the Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse at 500 Pearl Street, the 9th Floor Ceremonial Courtroom for the Southern District of New York was renamed the Hon. John F. Keenan Ceremonial Courtroom.
“It was an honor to have Judge Keenan back in the building, and to have him lead off this lecture series appropriately named after him,” said Regis President Fr. Daniel K. Lahart, S.J. “His storied past, along with his sharp intellect and remarkable memory, made for a very enjoyable evening. I was touched as he concluded with a tribute to what Regis meant to him and to all the other Regians in the room. It reminds us of why we do what we do every day here on 84th Street.”
In those closing remarks, Keenan spoke directly to Fr. Lahart and offered glowing praise for his alma mater.
“The education, Father, that you give to young men — to boys — it prepares them for life,” Keenan said. “It teaches them how to think, how to express themselves. It’s incredible.”