ASHLAND, VA -- Ted Keller, a legendary former coach, athlete and athletic administrator at Randolph-Macon College, passed away Friday, April 10, 2009.
A native of Winchester, Virginia, Keller graduated from Handley High School in 1949 where he was a star athlete in football, basketball and track. After high school, Keller enrolled at Randolph-Macon, where he excelled in football and baseball for four years. In football, Keller played quarterback and was all-conference, All-American and a team co-captain. In baseball, he was an all-conference shortstop. Off the field, Keller was a Dean’s List student and a member of the Omicron Delta Kappa national leadership and scholarship honor society. He received a B.A. degree in history from Randolph-Macon in 1953.
“Ted Keller left an indelible mark on the students whose lives he touched,” said R-MC president Robert R. Lindgren. “He was not only an exceptional athlete and coach, but a wonderful mentor, setting an example for sportsmanship and honor. He represented the best qualities about Randolph-Macon and he will be deeply missed.”
Keller began his coaching career as an assistant at James Wood High School in Winchester in 1953. From 1954 to 1956, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps and played football for the Quantico base team. He started as quarterback ahead of four Division I quarterbacks, including All-American Worth Lutz from Duke University.
In 1956 Keller got back into coaching as head football coach at Fairfax High School from 1956 to 1958, achieving a 14-4-2 record there. He then returned to Randolph-Macon in 1958 as an assistant coach and in 1964, Keller took over as head coach of the Yellow Jacket football team. He served in that capacity for 18 years with a record of 105-56-5.
While Keller was head coach, Randolph-Macon’s teams won four Mason-Dixon Athletic Conference championships and three Old Dominion Athletic Conference titles. The biggest moment for the program during that time was winning the 1969 Knute Rockne Bowl NCAA east division championship, 47-28 on the road against the University of Bridgeport (CT). That 1969 Yellow Jacket team was inducted into Randolph-Macon’s Athletic Hall of Fame in the fall of 2004.
“Coach Keller has been and always will be the face of the Randolph-Macon football program,” said current R-MC head coach Pedro Arruza. “The tradition he established here is remarkable and was one of the main things that initially attracted me to this job. With his legacy, he set an unbelievable standard of excellence – not only with his success on the field but also with the impact he made on the hundreds of men who played for him. You can tell when you meet one of his former players that Coach Keller is loved and respected by those who played for him." Continued Arruza - "From day one, he welcomed me into the Randolph-Macon football family. He was a great sounding board for a young coach. Even in tough times, he was always supportive of me and the program. His passing is a huge loss not only for the Randolph-Macon community, but for me personally. Coach Keller was a great man, and I will miss him.”
Individually, Keller was named Virginia Small College Coach of the Year four times and Old Dominion Athletic Conference Coach of the Year three times. In 1976, he coached the East team in the Virginia Collegiate East-West All-Star Game in Roanoke to a 29-19 win.
Keller was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame on April 23, 2005. The induction dinner ceremony took place in Portsmouth as a part of the Hall of Fame Weekend, which included the dedication of a new facility for the Hall of Fame. The Virginia Sports Hall of Fame was Keller’s sixth hall of fame induction. He was a member of the first class inducted into Randolph-Macon’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1996 and in 2005 was honored again with his 1969 football team. In addition, he has been inducted into the Handley High School Hall of Fame, the Winchester Fastpitch Softball Hall of Fame and the Richmond Slowpitch Softball Hall of Fame.
Besides his football coaching duties, Keller was also Randolph-Macon’s head golf coach from 1964 through 2002, and served as the school’s athletic director from 1982 to 1996. He served as the Director of the Yellow Jacket Club for many years and worked with the R-MC golf team until his death. In 1979, Randolph-Macon’s Society of Alumni presented Keller with the Distinguished Service Award, and he received the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1996.
“Ted’s passion for life and for Randolph-Macon was unparalleled,” said R-MC athletic director, Denis Kanach. “He could always be found at R-MC athletic competitions, cheering on our Yellow Jackets and even competing in our golf tournaments. It just won’t be the same without him.”
Keller’s service to the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame included being president of the organization in 1992 and 1994, and serving as chairman of that board from 1994 to 1996.