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No Dream Too Big

Howard Keenan '16.

Howard Keenan '16  

Big accomplishments are built on small steps, says Howard "Howie" Keenan '16, a law & policy major who's taken many steps forward so far. As a first-year Dickinsonian, Howie got involved on campus and was elected president of his class. During the summer after his sophomore year, he traveled to Israel to take part in an intensive summer program for Jewish entrepreneurs. By fall, he’d secured funding, through a nonprofit organization, to support his dream of founding a socially conscious business. Today, as he plans the next steps for his start-up, he’s also studying at the Jewish Theological Seminary through Dickinson study-abroad programming.


Law & Policy.

Clubs and organizations:

President of the class of 2016, The Octals, Public Affairs Committee, Montgomery Service Leaders and Dickinson College Republicans (vice president).

Favorite book:

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.

On choosing Dickinson:

Whenever I am asked this question, I always have to give a shout out to [Associate Director of Admissions] Molly Boegel. Molly came to my boarding school during the fall of my senior year, and her passion for Dickinson was incredible. I was skeptical about attending a small liberal-arts college at first, but I knew it wouldn't hurt to visit. My first time on campus sealed the deal.

Favorite place on campus:

The Underground.

Favorite class:

Foundations of Policy Studies with Professor [of Political Science Jim] Hoefler. There was no textbook for the class; the learning experience was organic and realistic. More important than gaining knowledge, I gained confidence in my ability to produce quality materials that are useful and practical.

Favorite professor:

[Associate] Professor [of Education] Sarah Bair. I took her Social Foundations of American Education class to fulfill a distribution requirement, and I was floored by her dedication to teaching and to her students. I felt compelled not just to do the assigned readings but also to read and research on my own to supplement my classroom experience.

Favorite Dining Hall food:

Falafel from the KOVE.

About my summer internship:

Last summer I interned at One Family Fund, the leading organization in Israel that supports and provides services for victims of terror attacks. I have always wanted the chance to intern at an organization that has [a significant positive] impact on the Jewish people and Israel.

If I could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, it would be …

… Theodore Roosevelt.

What I learned through volunteering:

[Through my experiences with United Way,] I learned that there is no job too small, especially in the nonprofit world. There were times when I was asked to perform simple or mundane tasks that didn't require any advanced skill set. I realized that instead of getting frustrated by this, it is more productive to look at all the people you are helping by performing these simple tasks.

On the birth of Howie Jake:

Last summer I was one of 36 people chosen to participate in Core18 Leaders Lab, a fellowship program for Jewish social entrepreneurs. For phase one, all 36 people [traveled to Israel to take] intensive summer classes in entrepreneurship and Jewish studies. At the end of the summer, we presented [our proposed ventures] to a panel, and 18 of the 36 were chosen to go on to phase two, the incubation phase. I was one of the 18.

My social entrepreneurial venture, Howie Jake, is an online marketplace [offering] customizable, high-end neckties; 10 percent of each purchase will be donated to mentoring programs for inner-city boys. I am working with a tie manufacturer in Manhattan, and I hope to launch Howie Jake by winter.

On giving back:

Young men from disadvantaged backgrounds are being failed by their school systems, and there is a great need for programs that prepare them for the workforce or college. I plan to donate 10 percent of Howie Jake's purchases to mentoring programs that will empower men from all walks of life to become leaders in their communities and follow paths that will lead to success and happiness. 

My biggest influence:

My mother, who taught me that no dream is too big. 

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Published September 25, 2014