Franklin Keel--100 Alumni You Should KNow

Franklin Keel--100 Alumni You Should KNow


A graduate of Oklahoma College of Liberal Arts in 1968, Franklin Keel understands how important a liberal arts education is.

In fact, one of his key messages to current students is, “Do not be afraid to explore a wide variety of subjects, especially those outside of your major field.”

It is clear from the life he has lead, this is a philosophy that resonates on a personal level.

After earning a bachelor’s degree from OCLA, he served in the U.S. Air Force and later worked as an administrative assistant with the U.S. Naval Weapons Laboratory.

In 1971, Keel became the first Native American commissioned as a Foreign Service Officer by the U.S. Diplomatic Corps. First assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Athens, Greece, he performed with distinction while representing U.S. interests overseas. Since then, he has mentored young Native Americans interested in pursuing a foreign affairs career.

Fueled by a desire to serve, Keel received his law degree from Oklahoma City University Law School and assisted the Native community through his work with Legal Aid in Lawton.

Keel was appointed to the Federal Senior Executive Service, the highest rank of the career U.S. Civil Service.

In 37 years with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, he earned the highest ratings for superior performance in his roles promoting Native American interests on Capitol Hill as Congressional Liaison and as Director of the Office of Trust, Superintendent of the Concho Agency and Regional Director. 

In 1997, he was appointed as Director of the Eastern Region, Bureau of Indian Affairs. He received the Department of the Interior Outstanding Service Award for his leadership in directing aid to affected tribes after Hurricane Katrina. He served the 28 tribes of the largest and most diverse region until his retirement in 2014.

Inducted into the Chickasaw Nation Hall of Fame last year, Keel was honored for his career of service to American Indians. It is the highest honor bestowed on a Chickasaw citizen.

“Make yourself grow by taking difficult courses from outstanding instructors,” Keel encouraged. “Most of all, be willing to enjoy and learn from everyone that you associate with during your time at USAO.”

Currently, Keel resides in Colorado, where he provides pro bono legal assistance to military personnel in the JAG office at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

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