Keim, Albert N. (1935-2008)

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Albert N. “Al” Keim: historian and university administrator, was born 31 October 1935 near Hartville, Ohio, USA to Noah A. Keim (26 December 1912-27 September 1994) and Sarah S. Miller Keim (26 June 1912-29 June 1999); he was the oldest of three children. Albert grew up in an Amish home and attended Amish parochial schools; his father was an Amish minister. On 27 August 1960 Albert married Leanna Marie Yoder (13 April 1936-19 October 1998); they had one daughter. In 2000 he married Kathy Fisher (1951- ). Albert Keim died 27 June 2008 at the University of Virginia Medical Center. He had received a liver transplant in 2007, but suffered a decline in health over time; he is buried in the Lindale Mennonite Church cemetery.

Albert Keim earned his professional degrees at Eastern Mennonite University (BA, 1963), University of Virginia (MA, 1965) and Ohio State University (PhD, 1971). The two years he spent in Western Europe as a Mennonite Central Committee volunteer relief worker were particularly influential in shaping his life. The experience enlarged his universe and gave him special skills as a woodworker and brick mason.

Keim taught history for 35 years at Eastern Mennonite University, retiring in 2000. Along the way he served seven years as academic dean and led several overseas study groups in Europe and the Middle East. Following retirement, he and Kathy Fisher lived in Saudi Arabia for several years. In 2006 he traveled in China.

While an admired and stimulating classroom lecturer, Keim made a distinct contribution as a writer. His most distinguished work was a masterful biography of a prominent Mennonite historian and church leader: Harold S. Bender 1897-1962 (1998). This volume, along with The CPS Story: an Illustrated History (1990), were included in the recently compiled "The Essential Anabaptist-Mennonite History Reading List" published in the Mennonite Historical Bulletin (April 2008).

Keim was attracted to the intersection of prophetic minorities with dominant cultures. As a young historian he edited a pioneering study, Compulsory Education and the Amish: The Right Not to be Modern (1975) and contributed two essays to this compilation. In 1988 he published The Politics of Conscience: The Historic Peace Churches and America at War, 1917-1955, based on research initiated by the late historian Grant M. Stoltzfus. This volume deftly explored the political influence of dissenting communities.

Along the way Keim was active in numerous history related groups. He served as a member of the Historical Committee of the Mennonite Church from 1984 to 1992. He was a longtime consulting editor of Mennonite Quarterly Review. In later years he played a prominent role in the development of the Shenandoah Valley Brethren-Mennonite Heritage Center.

Keim understood and never disparaged his Amish upbringing. He appreciated the wisdom of the story while recognizing the mysterious underpinnings of life. His last publication was the introduction and lead essay in Making Sense of the Journey: The Geography of our Faith (2007), edited by Robert and Nancy Lee. The essay "In Search of a Worldview: What Did I Know and When Did I Know It" was an insightful overview of his life journey from Amish boyhood to cosmopolitan scholar. The following paragraphs, drawn from that essay, illustrate well the master teacher-historian's thinking:

We live in a world that is societal in quality. Everything is related to and affected by and influences everything else. We human beings belong together, move together, work together and find our fulfillment in participation. This is true from the most mundane to the most transcendent experiences. All truth, all beauty, all of life is found in relationship.
I believe that the world (cosmos) is kept in order more by persuasion than by coercion. God is a pacifist whose will and purpose can always be rejected, but whose uncoerced invitation to respond offers the possibility of novelty and renewal in history. Coercion is a profoundly reactionary tactic, for it can enforce what is already present; its ability to enhance the new is severely limited and can at best impose order so that persuasion can become possible. Genuine freedom is only possible where decision and choice is uncoerced.


“Albert N. Keim.” SAGA (Swiss Anabaptist Genealogical Association) Genealogical Website. Web. 7 June 2016.

Bishop, Jim. “Keim, Albert N. (1936-2008).“ Mennonite Library and USA Archives - biographical wiki. Web. 2015.,_Albert_N._(1936-2008).

Lapp, John A. “In Memoriam: Albert N. Keim (1936-2008).” Mennonite Quarterly Review 82 (October 2008): 501-502. This GAMEO article is derived, with permission, from the MQR memorial article.

Prahlad, Kate. “Al Keim: A Man On a Mission.” Eastern Mennonite University. 2008. Web. 7 June 2016.

Books by Albert Keim

Keim, Albert N. Compulsory education and the Amish : the right not to be modern. Boston : Beacon Press, 1976.

Keim, Albert N. and Grant M. Stoltzfus. The politics of conscience : the historic peace churches and America at war, 1917-1955. Scottdale, Pa. : Herald Press, 1988.

Keim, Albert N. The CPS story : an illustrated history of Civilian Public Service. Intercourse, PA : Good Books, 1990.

Keim, Albert N. Harold S. Bender, 1897-1962. Scottdale, Pa. : Herald Press, 1998.

Author(s) John A Lapp
Date Published June 2016

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Lapp, John A. "Keim, Albert N. (1935-2008)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. June 2016. Web. 30 Jun 2022.,_Albert_N._(1935-2008)&oldid=135178.

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Lapp, John A. (June 2016). Keim, Albert N. (1935-2008). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 30 June 2022, from,_Albert_N._(1935-2008)&oldid=135178.

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