David Keefe has centralized resources and developed veteran-focused programs at GS around academic, health, community, and career support for nearly 1,500 transitioning student veterans. During this time, he has expanded student veteran engagement into a diverse student veteran body by developing innovative mentoring programs, community-building workshops, and socially relevant initiatives for first-gen, immigrant, and women veteran communities.
Dean Keefe is also an award-winning artist, educator, and aspiring anthropologist who explores the spaces of connectivity between communities that otherwise would not connect. Through creative and ethnographic methodologies, he has worked closely with veteran, immigrant, refugee, and healthcare communities—those affected by violence, displacement, and marginalization. He was recently awarded the Open Society Foundation’s 2019 Securing Open Societies Fellowship for exploring commonalities between veteran and immigrant communities that have been shaped by varied experiences of migration. Through participatory art workshops making handmade paper from clothes that were once worn while migrating across borders and battlegrounds, this work brought people together to learn from each other and share their unique and resonant experiences of relocation as a result of political oppression, class aspiration, struggle for citizenship, flight from violence, and stresses from complex trauma.
Dean Keefe is the co-founder and current advisor (and formerly served as executive director and board president) of Frontline Arts, a rapidly-growing national nonprofit that connects communities by supporting socially engaged art practices rooted in printmaking and papermaking. He is also the co-founder of Frontline Arts’ flagship program, Frontline Paper (formerly known as Combat Paper NJ), which connects veterans and witnesses through workshops that teach the craft of making paper from military uniforms. Through this work and his own studio practice, Dean Keefe has over 15 years of experience in the arts as a teacher, developer, curator, organizer, facilitator, and consultant on over 350 art projects, exhibitions, and events nationwide.
Additionally, Dean Keefe has been an adjunct professor of art at Montclair State University where he has taught painting, papermaking, and printmaking, including courses for student veterans on connective practice and community-building through making paper from uniforms—the only of its kind in the country.
Dean Keefe holds an MS in narrative medicine from Columbia University, an MFA in studio art from Montclair State University, a BFA from the University of Delaware, and is currently a PhD student in the Applied Anthropology Program at Columbia University Teachers College, where he is exploring—through creative and ethnographically-focused methodologies with both American veteran communities and French former-military communities—how the universally unrecognized ambiguity of the “veteran” narrative informs a narrow-minded infrastructure of civilian, veteran, and military “civ-vet-mil” relations, as well as feelings toward how society knows, talks about, and supports those who have served.
From 2001-2009, Sergeant Keefe served in the United States Marine Corps infantry as a light armored reconnaissance scout, and from 2006-2007 he completed a tour of duty on the Euphrates River in Iraq as a riverine scout with 2/3, nicknamed the “Warriors of Anbar.”
Dean Keefe lives in Verona, New Jersey with his wife Saydi and their five children.