Charles J. “Jack” Keese was inducted into the Texas Transportation Hall of Honor on Oct. 22. Keese served as the first full-time director of the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) from 1962 to 1976.
Friends and family joined TTI staff to celebrate Keese’s contributions to transportation at the Gibb Gilchrist Building in the Texas A&M University Research Park. Following the induction ceremony, TTI staff were treated to a barbecue luncheon.
Several visiting dignitaries spoke about the life, achievements and legacy of Keese, noting how he ably led TTI during its crucial adolescent years. Created in 1950 to help the Texas Highway Department improve the state’s transportation system through research, TTI became a nationally recognized center for research excellence under Keese’s leadership.
“This gentleman set the tone and culture for this organization and is largely responsible for establishing TTI as a premiere research organization,” acknowledged TTI Agency Director Dennis Christiansen. “The jobs we have and the work environment and culture that we enjoy are, to a large extent, a Jack Keese legacy.”
Drawing on his experience as a captain in the U.S. Army during World War II, Keese established the basic organizational structure that still guides TTI today. When he retired as director, TTI employed 200 staff and 120 students with an annual budget of $3.9 million. Training transportation professionals at Texas A&M University was also important to Keese, who received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from Texas A&M. He is generally credited with starting Texas A&M’s graduate program in traffic engineering.
Keese was also a founding member of the Texas Section of the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) and served as its president. He received numerous awards during his 32-year career, including the Luther DeBerry Award, and was named as the 61st Honorary Member of ITE. He also received a Purple Heart for his military service.
Speaking on behalf of the family, Joe Keese let those in attendance know that working at TTI “was not a career, it was not a job, it was a passion for my father. His inclusion in the Texas Transportation Hall of Honor is truly a great honor for our family.”
The induction ceremony took place only a few hundred feet from the Gilchrist’s sister building, currently under construction and scheduled for completion next fall. The new building will serve as TTI’s state headquarters.
“The new state headquarters building is, in large part, a tribute to the blood, sweat and tears Jack Keese put into this organization,” says Christiansen. “TTI is the world-class research agency it is today because of his vision and dedication to educational excellence.”
Keese joins a select group of fellow pioneers in the Hall of Honor, all of whom played pivotal roles in the advancement of transportation in Texas and the nation. In November, two additional 2008 inductees were also honored in Austin: Marquis G. Goode, Jr., and Louis L. Heil. The Hall of Honor is overseen by a five-member board of senior transportation professionals.