INSTRUCTOR PROFILE: KEITH

Tell us a little bit about yourself—where are you from and what brought you to Milwaukee?

An honest-to-goodness coastie, I came to MKE via Madison, where I got my PhD in mathematics. I grew up in the New Jersey suburbs of New York City and went to college in Philadelphia. I have completely embraced the entire Wisconsin identity since moving here--ask me about my strange knowledge of Wisconsin high school sports, mostly due to one of my best friends who loves talking Newman Catholic football.

What got you interested in crew?

I was a baseball player to start undergrad, but eventually tore a ligament in my elbow and had Tommy John surgery. I wasn’t really any good after that and I felt my life would go down the drain if I didn’t have a sport. Rowing was the only one that would pick up a junior and let him try it out, so that’s where I went.

Have you been on any crew teams?

I rowed for the University of Pennsylvania Quakers in undergrad, and because of the sport switch I got to row for the Badgers in my first year of grad school, 2013-14. The Russell Wilson plan. I was the grad assistant after that. I’ve kept rowing on and off competitively since, but my career peaked by winning the Champ 4+ at the Head of the Charles in Boston in 2015. It’s not as impressive as it sounds--three guys on the national team needed a fourth and picked me up. I was in Boston, got a text asking if I wanted to race, said absolutely, and my friend said “Saddle up sister.” Right place, right time.

When you’re not at SPIRE, where are you and what are you doing?

I may be at Miller Park crunching numbers, home in the Third Ward listening to techno and working on pure math research, working out in some other capacity, or enjoying a delicious adult beverage.

Who or what has inSPIRED you?

All of my coaches--Ed Golding, James Sands, Greg Myhr, Simon Carcagno, Beau Hoopman, Chris Clark--they’ve all done some incredible things and shown me a completely different method of living than I’d ever known, one that I very much enjoy. They showed me who my people are.

What is your go-to song to work out to?

Soliloquy by Isaiah Rashad. If you need 1:46 of fire there’s nowhere better to go.

What kind of music will we be listening to in your crew class?

A mix of hip-hop, techno, and girly pop. I have a serious addiction to the sugariest pop I can find.

What is your guilty pleasure?

I often push the world away and artificially make a bunch of me time, sometimes leaving other people to deal with things that I’d just rather not spend time doing.. I think that’s my guilty pleasure.

What are some things on your bucket list?

I want to learn French because I think it’s beautiful and I don’t understand a word of it--but I’m putting that off until I get old and my brain needs a kick in the pants. In truth, I very much want to accomplish the merging of machine learning and artificial intelligence with the more classical sciences to dramatically shorten the scientific design loop. I think that goal doesn’t leave a lot of room for much else.

What motivates you to keep pushing hard, especially in the gym?

I actually love working out. What probably keeps me going is the incredible feeling you get when you’ve done something physically that you’d never considered possible for yourself. It’s hard to get that anywhere else. But I refuse to intellectualize workouts that way, so my real answer is that I love the crawling around in the muck that is working out hard. I live in the well and I love it. We as humans were built to do that every once in awhile, and I think without it my life would be incomplete.

What is some of the best advice you have received?

Three very similar pieces of advice:

  1. “If you don’t want to plateau, then don’t.”

  2. “You want to be good? You gotta BE GOOD!” (my actual favorite is this one of course)

  3. “When two boats clash, one thing happens. One boat stops rowing, and one boat keeps rowing. Don’t be the boat that stops rowing.”

What is a unique fact that few people know about you?

I studied Arabic for three years in college, potentially in preparation for the foreign service or something similar. Turned out I liked math too much. But it is a beautiful language!

If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?

This is not an original answer, I stole it from a friend, but--buy a yacht, load up every friend who could come, and take an entire tour of the Mediterranean. If I survived I would take an enormous penthouse somewhere, not have a “job” but keep working on mathematics, collaborating across the world with everyone who is doing something interesting.

What is your favorite workout clothing/brand?

When I showed up to Madison we were an Adidas school, and being bombarded with free stuff was amazing to me, so I have to say Adidas. My last couple of months there we had switched to UA and that stuff was pretty amazing too, but I gotta stay true to my roots.