College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences

Clemson University remembers former dean Tom Keinath as an exemplar scholar and great mentor


The Clemson University community is remembering one of its own, Dean Emeritus Thomas M. Keinath, as an esteemed leader, caring mentor, exemplar scholar and gentleman to the core, following his death on March 15 at age 83.

As dean from 1992-2006, Keinath shepherded the College of Engineering and Science, as it was then known, through a time of rapid transformation, laying the groundwork for future generations.

Tom Keinath

His leadership encouraged interdisciplinary collaboration, ushered the college into the age of ubiquitous laptops and digital communication, helped the college adapt to the changing needs of a globalized workforce and sought to provide opportunities for all students to thrive.

Keinath mentored several faculty members who would go on to become some of Clemson’s most influential leaders.

“Dr. Tom Keinath was a visionary leader whose legacy of mentorship, kindness and scholarship at Clemson University will be remembered for many years to come,” said President Jim Clements. “Dr. Keinath loved Clemson University, and we are a better institution because of his outstanding dedication, leadership and commitment to always moving Clemson forward.”

Keinath joined Clemson in 1969 as an assistant professor of environmental systems engineering and began rising through the ranks in what would become a 37-year career.

He became acting head of the Department of Environmental Systems Engineering in 1976, had “acting” removed from his title the following year and led the department until 1992.

Throughout his career, Keinath directed the research of 87 master’s students, 15 Ph.D. students and eight postdoctoral researchers. The Department of Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences would later recognize his contributions with the Thomas M. Keinath Endowment in Environmental Engineering, which benefits outstanding juniors and seniors.

“Working alongside Tom Keinath was a joy and inspiration,” former Clemson University President Jim Barker said. “Clemson would not be Clemson without the example he set for me and many others.”

When Keinath first became dean, he oversaw what was then called the College of Engineering, which consisted of nine departments. He oversaw a major reorganization in 1995 that was aimed at fostering interdisciplinary collaboration, adding five more departments and a school to create the College of Engineering and Science.

During his time as dean, the college forged new partnerships with industry, which helped build South Carolina into the international business hub it is today. A program rolled out in the late 1990s sought to make engineering students more globally competitive with foreign language courses and international internships.

In a nod to the growing importance of digital communication and calculation, Keinath presided over a pilot program to provide students with laptops.

As many as 5,000 students and about 430 faculty members and permanent staff were part of the college during his time as dean. The College of Engineering and Science remained intact until 2016, when another reorganization created its current incarnation, the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences.

“Tom’s enduring legacy of an unwavering commitment to excellence, and highest personal integrity was a true inspiration to many of us. Working with and for Tom, for more than two decades, was based on uncommon mutual trust and respect, said Chris Przirembel, former vice president for research and economic development. His presence will be sorely missed, but the impact of his leadership and personal attributes will continue to live on.”

Keinath received several prestigious awards, including the Gordon Maskew Fair Medal from the Water Environment Federation for his lifetime accomplishments in the education of environmental engineering professionals.

Throughout his career, Keinath played vital roles in organizations focused on water quality control. He led the International Water Association and chaired committees in the American Society of Civil Engineers, influencing policies worldwide.

Keinath published four books or monographs and well over 100 technical papers, most dealing with modeling and control of water and wastewater treatment facilities and physicochemical methods of treatment.

He received a Ph.D. in water resources engineering, a master’s in sanitary engineering and bachelor’s in civil engineering, all from the University of Michigan, where he also did postdoctoral research.

“Tom was an exemplary scholar and researcher, a true giant in his discipline,” said Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences. “Beyond his leadership, many of us who knew him well will remember Tom not only as a great dean, but as a true gentleman, a caring mentor and friend. His kindness and genuine concern for others left a lasting impression on all those who crossed his path. Tom’s legacy reminds us that we stand on the shoulders of giants.”

In memory of Keinath, please consider a gift to the Thomas M. Keinath Endowment in Environmental Engineering and Science (Fund B2294) at Clemson University. For more information, please contact (864) 656-5896.

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