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Vectren lobbyist appointed to Board of Trustees

Noah Alatza, News Editor

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Updated: Friday, August 17

Governor Eric Holcomb has appointed Evansville native Christine H. Keck to the university’s Board of Trustees.

Keck currently serves as Evansville-based utility giant Vectren Corporation’s federal government affairs director.  

Her work includes lobbying to congressional representatives on behalf of Vectren in order to help set policy on infrastructure and energy.

She also serves in a dual role as the director of government relations at Energy Systems Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of Vectren located in Newburgh. Keck recently resigned her position on the Ports of Indiana Commission, which operates major freight along the Great Lakes and the Ohio-Mississippi River System.

Keck has long ties and deep roots to business, government, and politics in Evansville and the Tri-State area. Before her time in the energy sector, she spent nearly 12 years in banking as senior vice president for Old National Bank.

“I have been engaged in the community and organizing philanthropy going back for years,” she said. “My work is pretty broad-ranging and extensive. I feel my array of community and state level engagement on a variety of topics will be helpful to my role as trustee.”

This October, Keck is expected to become the chairman of the Southwest Indiana Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. She previously served as vice chair of public policy for the board.

Keck said her vast array of experience in both the energy and banking sectors will be beneficial to her work as a trustee. She said the university’s history underscores the importance of the institution’s local impact.

“USI started locally and fairly small, and it just continues to grow into such a dynamic institution,” she said. “Its excellence and impact is something I continuously hear from the community.”

Keck is the vice chair of the St. Vincent Hospital Foundation’s Board of Directors. She said before becoming a trustee was ever on her radar, the nursing and accounting programs stood out in conversations she had with the community.

“I would hear from other (St. Vincent) board members about what an outstanding nursing program (USI) offers,” Keck said. “The other thing is excellence in USI’s accounting program. This is great growth of the institution both in size and excellence.”

Keck said she wants to further the university’s vision by providing her unique perspective.

“My goal is to help continue the very positive momentum, and I want to be a voice to help that continued growth,” she said. “I would also say my perspective as a businesswoman has engaged the community in a number of years, and that will help provide some unique perspective given the diversity of my experience and background. Frankly my very active role in the chamber is also a force for progress and continued momentum of the region.”

Keck, who oversees all government-related work for Vectren, joins the Board of Trustees in the midst of the company’s announcement in February of $900 million in upgrades to its nearby A.B. Brown power plant.

Vectren said it plans on retiring three of its coal-fired plants by 2023, when the updated A.B. Brown natural gas plant, which is just a 15-minute drive from the university’s campus, is expected to be completed.

Senior students William Bowens and Logan Vest hosted a student-led campus forum with professors and environmentalists in April to discuss what Vectren’s future plans may look like. Many event-goers said they were concerned with the long-term environmental impact that the gas plant would have on campus and surrounding areas for years, if not decades to come.

Vest, a senior philosophy major who is graduating in December, said he believes Keck’s appointment was political.

“Our political process in Evansville already favors corporate interests such as Vectren, and nominating Christine Keck to the USI Board of Trustees will ensure that Vectren’s wishes are represented,” Vest said. “In other words, USI will retain conservative views and essentially tow the party line.”

He said that he been trying to convince the university to move away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy, with “little or no avail.”

“USI seems to prioritize corporate interests over the interests of their students,” Vest said.

Despite such pushback from students and members of the community who live near the power plant, Vectren’s Vice President for Marketing and Communications Chase Kelley told The Shield in April that the new gas-fired generation facility will pave the way for additional renewable energy in the future.

“We believe the generation transition plan announced in February strikes the right balance of moving toward a diverse energy mix while keeping in mind our need to provide reliable, reasonably priced energy to our customers in southwestern Indiana,” Kelly said in an emailed statement to The Shield in April 2018.

Keck said she could not comment on anything related to the company in her personal capacity.

Keck remains active on Capitol Hill and at the Indiana Statehouse, often speaking with top state lawmakers, congressional aides, U.S. representatives and senators. She was part of a week-long European trade mission led by former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels in 2007.

She is a graduate of Evansville’s Memorial High School and a 1989 graduate of Indiana University – Bloomington, but spent the first two and half years of her undergraduate at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. She has received numerous professional certifications and awards including the Leadership Evansville Sara B. Davies Award for her “passion and devotion to the community.”

Two other trustees were also reappointed, including Board of Trustees chairman Harold Calloway, who oversaw the selection of the university’s fourth president Ron Rochon during the confidential search committee process in the 2017-18 academic year. John M. Dunn was also reappointed to serve a full four year term as trustee.

Both were originally appointed in 2006 by former Indiana Governor and current Purdue University President Mitch Daniels.

“I am extremely excited and honored to serve in this role,” Keck said. “It’s truly an honor and I am looking so very forward to this.”

The three recent trustee appointments’ terms will expire June 30, 2021.

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