Alumni Profile
By Michelle Morrissey ’97
Remembering a Different Kind of Leader
Ben Keating ‘04
Courtesy Keating family


early 10 years after graduating from UNH with a degree in classics, Jessica Ouellette ’11 still thinks about Capt. Benjamin Keating ’04. She even remembers the day more than a decade ago on which she was awarded a scholarship in his name by the UNH humanities department.

“Professor Stephen Trzaskoma was presenting the award, and I remember he got extremely choked up when he started talking about Ben,” she says. “I remember feeling so honored; Ben clearly had such an impact on the faculty, and his family clearly feels a strong connection to UNH.”

That connection and inspiration are exactly what Ben’s parents, Beth and Ken Keating, his sister — who also happens to be named Jessica — and the rest of his family and friends were hoping for when they created the Capt. Benjamin Keating Memorial Fund in 2008. Keating, who graduated from UNH with degrees in history and classics, was killed in 2006 in a roadside convoy accident while serving as executive officer of A Troop, 3-71 Cavalry, Task Force Spartan, 10th Mountain Division, in Kamdesh, Afghanistan.

Keating’s story was in the news again earlier this year; he was portrayed in the movie “The Outpost,” which tells the story of one of the bloodiest battles in the war in Afghanistan. The movie details Keating’s November 2006 death, which occurred when his truck fell from a clifftop road during a convoy run. The outpost was renamed Combat Outpost Keating in his honor, and three years later it would become the site of the Battle of Kamdesh, during which members of his team successfully held off Taliban fighters.

And while it might have been a kick to talk to actor Orlando Bloom, who played Ben in the movie, the Keatings hope the movie, as well as the book by Jake Tapper on which it is based, serve as a reminder to Americans about the bravery and sacrifices of military men and women like their son.

Beth Keating says her son really found himself at UNH. “Ben was always very bright, but hadn’t really found any channel for his intelligence before UNH,” she says. The younger Keating’s admiration for UNH was reciprocated; Trazskoma and fellow faculty member John Rouman were among the significant contributors to the scholarship.

As the head of the UNH College Republicans, Keating was often “alone on one side of the debates taking place on current events,” says Ken, but he never used his strong opinions to disrespect someone else’s stance. Cousin Geoff Grant ’97 ’03G says Keating’s interest in the humanities as an academic area of study was the result of his belief in respecting all people and varying opinions. Both as a student and in his military career, “Ben had a mature perspective in dealing with people that made him a different kind of leader,” Grant says.

Ouellette, now a Latin teacher at her hometown high school in Taunton, Massachusetts, believes receiving the Keating scholarship was a big part of what set her on a path to professional and personal success. She says the Keating family’s generosity, and Ben’s story, especially, are things that inspire her to this day. “Receiving this scholarship and knowing the person behind it had such a strong impact on people around him at UNH —. Even though I never knew Ben, I’m so grateful.”