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Bastrop Veterinary Campus Re-Named for Michale E. Keeling

Bastrop Veterinary Campus Re-Named for Michale E. Keeling
Long-time Director, Primate Expert and Community Leader Honored For Service, Vision and Contributions to Research
M. D. Anderson News Release 11/05/04

The University of Texas System Board of Regents today (Nov. 5) approved naming The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center’s Department of Veterinary Sciences facility near Bastrop for its former long-time administrative director and internationally renowned chimpanzee expert.

Now known as the Michale E. Keeling Center for Comparative Medicine and Research, the facility’s new name honors the memory and contributions of Michale E. Keeling, D.V.M. who was the only administrative director of the department since it opened in 1975. Keeling was killed in a car accident near his home in Elgin last December at the age of 61.

Located on about 375 acres near Bastrop, the facility houses chimpanzees, rhesus monkeys, sheep, cattle, swine, chickens and rodents, and has an international reputation for innovation in breeding and managing many species vital to biomedical research at M. D. Anderson and all over the United States. More than 100 people, including veterinarians, animal handlers, research technicians and administrative staff conduct research there in cancer, HIV, hepatitis, obesity and vaccine development.

M. D. Anderson President John Mendelsohn, M.D. credits Keeling with the Bastrop campus’ international reputation for laboratory animal science and comparative medicine as well as housing, care and re-socializing of chimpanzees.

“Mike Keeling was a gifted veterinarian and scientist who had great vision for biomedical research,” said Mendelsohn. “He built a world-class center for veterinary resources from scratch and, as a tribute to him, the campus continues to thrive and grow. We miss Mike a great deal, but we honor him and his family by naming the facility that had been part of his life for more than three decades.”

Under Keeling, the department became one of only a handful of institutions participating in the National Chimpanzee Breeding and Research Program. Acting on an opportunity that arose in 1977, Keeling developed a program at the Bastrop facility for housing, breeding and re-socializing chimpanzees that had been in federal biotechnology research programs. As part of a $19 million grant from the National Institutes of Health awarded in 2000, the Bastrop campus recently built innovative new housing for the more 150 chimpanzees that now reside there. 

A veterinarian specializing in the care of primates, Keeling was active in organizations that monitored the use of animals in biomedical research and gave sanctuary to primates no longer involved in research. He published more than 50 papers on the physiology and behavior of chimpanzees as well as the importance of animals in biomedical research.

Before joining M. D. Anderson’s Department of Veterinary Sciences in 1974, Keeling was chief clinical veterinarian at Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center at Emory University and zoo veterinarian at Atlanta Zoological Garden.

He graduated from Texas A & M University with a bachelor’s degree in veterinary science and D.V.M. in 1966.

Keeling was an active member of his community participating in the Elgin Kiwanis Club, Bastrop County Economic Development Advisory Committee, Elgin Optimist Club, Elgin Livestock Association, and Cedar Hills Civic Club.

He was a founder of an annual fund-raising event in Bastrop to advance research and provide financial assistance to area patients who go to M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for care. Known as Cattlemen for Cancer Research, the event has raised more than $400,000 since it began in 1999. Some 30 patient families in Williamson, Bastrop, Travis, Lee and Hays counties have benefited, receiving funds for lodging, meals and travel.

“For all of Mike’s professional achievements – and there were many – his family and community were most important,” said Margaret Kripke, Ph.D., executive vice president and chief academic officer at M. D. Anderson. “He took great pride in knowing his neighbors and giving back to the community. The re-naming of the Bastrop veterinary campus honors Mike and is enthusiastically supported by the faculty and staff there as well as the members of the Cattlemen for Cancer event and other community leaders. That is a tribute to Mike unto itself.”

Keeling is survived by his wife, Donna, their four children and seven grandchildren who live in the area.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center