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Family Of Late New Rochelle Journalist Sets Up Fund At SUNY Purchase

A lone student walks through the mall at SUNY Purchase. A newly endowed fund, set up by the family of the late journalist Peter Keller, a longtime New Rochelle resident, will help students studying journalism, history, and the humanities.
A lone student walks through the mall at SUNY Purchase. A newly endowed fund, set up by the family of the late journalist Peter Keller, a longtime New Rochelle resident, will help students studying journalism, history, and the humanities. Photo Credit: Rebekah Marcarelli

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. -- An endowed fund honoring Peter Keller, a longtime New Rochelle resident, has been set up at SUNY Purchase, where his daughter teaches history.

Lisa Keller said her father, a distinguished journalist at the Wall Street Journal for more than 56 years, was a voracious reader of both history and literature. He died in 2005 at the age of 87.

The Peter Keller Fund, an endowment in the Purchase college’s School of the Humanities, was formally announced on Thursday, Jan. 7 and dedicated by Keller and her husband, Saky Yakas, a managing partner at SLCE Architects.

According to Keller, her father was born in Brooklyn and studied at City College at night where he edited a student newspaper.

After serving in World War II, Keller returned to New York where he quickly got a job at the Wall Street Journal, his daughter said.

He was named night news editor in 1966, a position he held for 25 years.

Keller retired in 2001.

Keller said her father;s legacy of several generations of intrepid reporters and editors inspired her to found the journalism department at Purchase College in 1998.

She directed the program until 2008, and, she said, continued to honor her father’s memory by supporting the students through the Peter Keller Journalism Scholarship Fund, created after he died.

“Once my father retired, I encouraged him to come on campus and take classes,” Keller said.

One of the things he most enjoyed, she said, was meeting journalism students.

“He was very interested in encouraging a new generation of reporters and helping them on their way.” She said. “He knew that journalism is a tough business and that students often need financial support to help launch their careers.”

The new endowment will provide support for several initiatives, Keller said.

The Peter Keller Journalism Award will be given annually to an outstanding junior or senior enrolled in the Journalism department. The Dina Reutershan Epstein Memorial Award will go to a junior or senior enrolled in the School of the Humanities who excels in community service, academic accomplishment, and the ability to overcome obstacles.

The Peter Keller History Award will recognize one student in the History Department for excellence in essay writing. The fund will also provide support for the Peter Keller History Lecture, to be given by a visiting history professor or lecturer.

Expressing gratitude to the Kellers, Purchase College President Thomas J. Schwarz said: “As the world only becomes more complex, the country needs well-rounded journalists now more than ever.”

The fund, he said, will enable students to get "the training they need to navigate this profession and world events.”

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