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Keppel washed well enough, succeeded in getting faculty members from other disciplines into the education school, set up joint professorships on the theory that knowledge in specific fields is vital to the teaching of teachers. Says Presidential Assistant McGeorge Bundy, who was dean of Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences: "Keppel won the respect of his faculty and my snobbish faculty, who tended to scoff at deans of education. He is a man who has grown on every job he's hadand left each a bigger job than it was." In 1962, John Kennedy invited Keppel to take on the Commissioner's job. In their first informal chat, Jack asked: "Weren't you in my brother Joe's class?" "Yes," replied Keppel. "Didn't you run against Joe for some office?" "Yes, for class marshal." "And didn't Joe beat you?" "Yes."
Recalls Keppel today: "Those Kennedys never forget an election."
Incredible Secretaries. In three years as Education Commissioner, Keppel has knocked the old pedagogical stuffiness out of the Office of Education; for one thing, he has gotten the dozens of Ph.D.s there to quit calling each other "Doctor." Recently he overheard a staffer apologizing for never having gone to college. Keppel butted in with: "What the hell difference does that make?"
Keppel regularly runs through a nonstop, eleven-hour working day, conferring with the President or with HEW Secretary Gardner, calling weekend staff meetings, visiting schools, addressing meetings of the Chamber of Commerce or the United Jewish Appeal, or just about any interested group that shows a willingness to discuss the nation's education programs. He is for ever torn between the desire to proselytize and the need to be at his desk. "When a Congressman calls," he says, "I want to be there."
If the pressures of office ever do get to him, Keppel confides it only to his trim, sprightly wife Deedie (for Edith). The two live alone in a rented brick house in Georgetown; one daughter, Tracy, 23, who attended Bennington College and Boston Universitybut never graduatedis married, and a second, Susan, 18, is a freshman at Centenary College in Shreveport, La. "I love hearing about Frank's job," Deedie says. "I'm about the only person he can blow his stack with. Frank is just like his father. He leaves the cellar flooded and flies off to South America. The only thing he does around here each year is to sign his income-tax form." Even when traveling, says she, Keppel would be "absolutely lost without incredibly good secretaries who nursemaid him to death, give him money and notes to tell him where he is going."
National Testing. Keppel worries about where education in the U.S. is going. He contends that no one even knows where it is nowand that "what we don't know about education can hurt us." For that reason, he advocates a system of national testing that can supply an objective assessment of the state of the schools.