Keane, John Joseph (1839–1918), university rector and archbishop of Dubuque, Iowa, was born 12 September 1839 in Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal, the eldest of three sons and two daughters of Hugh Keane, tailor, and Fannie Keane (née Connolly). He attended school locally from the age of three. The family emigrated to St. John, New Brunswick, Canada, in 1846, and then to Baltimore, Maryland in December 1848. Keane graduated from Calvert Hall, Baltimore, in 1856, and worked for three years in Baltimore before entering St. Charles' College, Ellicott City, Maryland, and then St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore. He was ordained in the archdiocese of Baltimore by Archbishop Martin J. Spalding on 2 July 1866, and was assigned to St Patrick's Church, Washington, DC. During his twelve years in Washington, Keane, an adept public speaker, was active in the temperance movement and various welfare organisations and was rewarded by an appointment as the fifth bishop of Richmond, Virginia, on 31 March 1878. He also served as the administrator of the vicarate of North Carolina (1878–82), where he was concerned with the position of African-Americans. In May 1885 he was appointed to a committee formed by the third plenary council of Baltimore (1884) to found a catholic university in the USA. Working alongside Bishop John Ireland (qv) of St. Paul, Minnesota, he was instrumental in the subsequent foundation of the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. He was appointed the university's first rector 7 September 1887 and, despite his lack of a higher education, was a popular choice. The university officially opened on 13 November 1889.
Controversy soon arose when a split occurred in the American catholic hierarchy on the doctrine of ‘Americanism’, which advocated rapid assimilation of catholic immigrants (mainly Irish and German) into mainstream American society. Keane and fellow Irish-born archbishop John Ireland were strong ‘Americanists’. On 15 September 1896 conservative opponents managed to have him removed as rector by Pope Leo XIII. The pope gave him the choice of an American archdiocese or residence in Rome. He chose Rome, living in virtual exile in two rooms in the Canadian College (1897–99), and was made the titular archbishop of Damascus, a canon of the Basilica of St John Lateran, and consultor to the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith and the Congregation of Studies. He returned to the USA in 1899 to raise funds for the Catholic University of America. On 24 July 1900, in a conciliatory gesture, he was appointed archbishop of Dubuque, Iowa, although he was urged in a letter by the pope in August 1900 to combat the errors of ‘Americanism’. In Dubuque he concentrated efforts on promoting catholic education, developing Loras College, and on temperance, forming an Archdiocesan Total Abstinence Union (1902). He achieved some success in the latter when on Sunday 16 June 1907 the saloons in Dubuque were closed for the first time in 50 years. His health began to fail in 1909 and, not having an auxiliary or coadjutor bishop assigned to help him, he resigned as archbishop of Dubuque on 10 January 1911. He was appointed titular archbishop of Ciana and lived in the cathedral rectory. He celebrated his priestly jubilee on 6 July 1916. His publications include Onward and upward: a year-book compiled from the discourses of Archbishop Keane, edited by Maurice Francis Egan (1902), various articles in the Catholic World, American Ecclesiastical Review, American Catholic Quarterly Review, the North American Review, and his final publication Emmanuel (1915). Keane Hall at the Catholic University of America was named after him. He died at home in Dubuque on 22 June 1918 and was buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery, Key West, Dubuque.