Keith honored at memorial service

Larry Keith was remembered by friends and family at the St. Paul AME Church in Raleigh on Monday, Feb. 22. Keith, a pioneer in recruiting minority students into the health professions, passed away Wednesday, Feb. 17.

The celebration of his life was led by Rev. Gregory L. Edmond and was followed by interment at Carolina Biblical Gardens in Raleigh. William L. Roper, MD, MPH, Dean of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, spoke at the service. His remarks are provided in full below. An obituary released by the School of Medicine on Thursday, Feb. 18 is available here.

Remarks by Dr. Roper
February 22, 2010

It is my privilege to join all of you today to honor and celebrate the legacy of Larry Keith.

I speak on behalf of UNC – and I believe I speak for my fellow deans and other colleagues and the hundreds and thousands of others who have come to know and love Larry.

Larry had a true and abiding love for the University and its students.  He devoted 25 years to the School of Medicine – with the passionate mission of increasing the number of underrepresented and disadvantaged minorities in the health professions.

Since 1992, Larry directed the Medical Education Development Program.  Eighty-eight percent of the more than 2,000 students who have participated in the MED summer program have decided to apply to health profession schools.  Of those, 90% were admitted, 80% entered medical or dental school, and the remainder entered other health profession schools.

The MED Program at UNC has become a national model – followed by many other institutions.

Larry’s legacy is best seen in the hundreds of talented individuals who have succeeded in medicine and other health professions, due in large part to his belief in their value and importance, his hard work preparing them for the future and opening doors for them, and his unwavering dedication and devotion to them throughout their education and beyond.

He created a nurturing community that has given previously disadvantaged students an equal chance to succeed –  and his influence will be felt for many decades.  Scores of students have told me of the overarching impact he had on their lives and careers – indeed, many speak of him as a “father figure.”

Larry Keith was my friend – and I know that I say those words on behalf of us all – with great meaning and passion. 

Many, many times I had the privilege of greeting him – in the hallway or the office – and he invariably gave me a bear hug – and as his big frame grew thinner and he grew weaker – he never tired of telling me how much he loved UNC and what all of us together do for countless young people.

So what now?

As was once said on another solemn occasion,

“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work, which he so nobly advanced, dedicated to the great task remaining before us.”

Thank you, Larry, for all you did to inspire us and push us – we know you will continue to do so for a long time to come.

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