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George Williams KEETON

Doctor of Laws
honoris causa

The Public Orator Professor Leonard Kenneth Young, B.A., M.A., D.PHIL., wrote and delivered the following citation:

I find myself in the happy position this evening of being invited by a person no less august than a Chancellor, not only to offer an opinion before a lawyer, but to have my opinion dwell on that lawyer's worth. But I must forego the singular opportunity presented I to me, for this must be a nostalgic moment of home-coming for George Williams Keeton in which badinage and laudation, those normal distractions of the orator, have no place.

Just forty-five years ago, as a young Reader in Law and Politics in this University, George Keeton gave his farewell address to a gathering of his students and colleagues, who may well have been assembled in this Great Hall. The occasion marked the end of an extremely successful three-year period of teaching and research, of widening perspectives and deepening understanding, when the theoretical conceptions of the young scholar from Cambridge were hammered by his concerned students against the harsh Chinese anvil of the I920's, bringing them to a resilience which has withstood the passage of time.

Today, in the range of his interests he emerges as the doyen of academic legal studies in England, with a reputation that extends around the world. He has been principal of the London Institute of World Affairs since 1938, and for over 30 years he was Professor of English Law at University College, London; during which time he was for fifteen years Dean of the Faculty of Laws and then Vice-Provost. He was made a Fellow of the British Academy in 1964. Having spent the major part of his career in one of the oldest law faculties in England he was invited to commence his retirement by initiating law studies at Brunel University. This post he still holds, concurrently with that of Professor of English Law at Notre Dame University. The writings of Professor Keeton have explored and charted vast expanses of legal terrain in a way which defies the tarnishing of time. The originality of his thought is matched only by the brilliance of his scholarship. To an inimicable degree he possesses that rare com-bination of great qualities which he has attributed to another great lawyer who became Lord Chancellor in England in the post-Restoration period, 'that consummate mastery of intricate details, together with an unflinching regard for general principles, both of which have gained an added value from his habitual lucidity of expression. The fields of jurisprudence and legal theory, the legal system, legal history, administrative and institutional law, and public international law have all been illuminated by his pen. The timorous beginning student moving from one strange area to the other, daunted by the leather bound cliffs of judicial dicta and bewildered by the terrors of the statutory jungle, is heartened by the knowledge that George Keeton has been there before him and is at hand to guide him on his way. It is a law common to all students that Keeton's equity provides an unmistakeable gloss and it is universally known that despite his extraterritorial interests he is a man to be taken on trust.

It is in this regard, through his close and continuing concern for his students, that George Keeton claims our special respect. Years ago, in an address given shortly after he left Hong Kong, he observed: "Perhaps the greatest reward of a teacher is to see his ideas not only perpetuated, but also developed, by those who were formerly his pupils, and are now his friends and colleagues". These students are now scattered around the globe in their thousands, and they have failed to lose, because they do not wish to lose, their Keetonian identities. Mr. Chancellor, in 1966 an honorary degree was conferred on George Williams Keeton by the University of Sheffield, the place of his birth. When we recall the youthful lecturer of the 1920's, we too can claim some part in the making of a brilliant career which has extended over half a century. We request you now to recognize the connection by conferring on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.

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