Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: Biography – Staff/Personnel

Science Teacher, September 1941 – May 1944

TAGS: Alice Joy Keith ; mathematicians ; scientists ; teachers ; Women’s Organization of West Center Congregational Church ; fundraising ; Caney Creek Community Center at Pippa Passes ; Arthur Dodd ; Glen Camp ; boarding school students ; donations ; U.S. Naval Electronics Lab ; LORAD (Long-Range Air Defense) ; Roosevelt Redwood ; activism ; Campbell (CA) High School ; Theodore Roosevelt ;  Sonar Sound Analyzers ;

Alice Joy Keith was a woman ahead of her time. She was an excellent mathematician, scientist, and most of all — teacher. Pine Mountain was very fortunate to have had her on their staff if even for a brief time during the Boarding School school years. Like so many of the staff who worked at the School, Alice Joy Keith never forgot the lessons that her Eastern Kentucky stay taught her.

Her beginnings were in the West in northern California. After graduating from Campbell High School in 1923, she married, then went East and for a time lived in the Yonkers, New York, area where she earned a B.S. at nearby Columbia University. While living in New York, she was active in various religious and civic women’s clubs including the Women’s Organization of West Center Congregational Church in Mount Vernon. (The West Center Congregational Church’s website describes the church as a member of the progressive, mainline Protestant denomination, the United Church of Christ in Yonkers.)

An article in The Herald Statesman, a Yonkers newspaper dated April 12, 1934, announced that Mrs. Alice Joy Keith was re-elected president of the Women’s Organization of West Center Church.

As part of the program at [the meeting] Mrs. Keith…gave a talk and survey of conditions at Caney Creek Community Center, in the mountains of Kentucky, where she spent last summer teaching the boys and girls of that region.

The Community Center she said, is supported by contributions from all parts of the United States. Those who show ability, she added, are helped in obtaining a higher education. She spoke of the need for contributions of clothing and library material….

It was at the West Center Congregational Church that Keith came into contact with her Pine Mountain Settlement School recruiters. During her work at Caney Creek Community Center at Pippa Passes, Kentucky, she likely became even more familiar with Pine Mountain and its programs. In September 1941 Alice Joy Keith came to Pine Mountain to teach science in “Group D” and remained in that position until May 31, 1944.

She explains in her letter of application for a Pine Mountain position that

I hold a Master’s degree from Columbia, a Bachelor’s from the University of California [Berkeley], and have something over twenty-four hours credit in education.

I have seventeen years teaching experience, ten in Coalinga Junior and Senior High School in California, six at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, and one at Pine Manor Junior College in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

In Coalinga I was head of mathematics and the physical sciences, and on occasionI have taught English, mechanical drawing and physical education and coached debating, athletic games and swimming. At times I conducted evening classes in arithmetic, mechanics and radio for men and women in the oil fields, and led a young people’s Union Society of Christian Endeavor.

At Sarah Lawrence I organized the mathematics and physical science, participating in the activities of many other groups,  — dramatics, music, art, psychology, etc., — in order to inject my frequently misjudged subjects as experiences helpfully functioning in the students’ lives. Reciprocally, they taught me weaving, stagecraft some pottery, etc.. I was a member of the Faculty Research Committee.

Importantly, she adds

An experience in the Appalachian Mountains in 1933, during which I visited Pine Mountain and other schools, renewed an earlier desire to use these humanized teaching techniques among groups less privileged than those at Sarah Lawrence. Since 1934 I have been journeying about observing and getting volunteer experience with the American Friends Service Committee and on Resettlement projects.

Since September 1936, I have been a  member of the faculty of Pine Manor Junior College in Wellesley, teaching astronomy eight hours a week while perfecting and marketing my educational astronomy puzzles,  “Children’s Games for Father and Mother.” I accepted the invitation to continue this part time work for the coming academic year with the understanding that I might ask to be released for full time work.

She signs her application with (Mrs.) Alice Joy Keith (Member of Society of Phi Beta Kappa)


Mrs. Keith’s credentials were not over-blown nor was her sentiment for the School which was expressed in her July 16, 1943, response to Arthur Dodd, then principal of the boarding school. Dodd was concerned that Keith would accept a position with Hendy Iron Works instead of returning to Pine Mountain to teach for another year. Mrs. Keith responds

Pine Mountain seems to me my first responsibility. It seems to me that the glowing demand in the young eyes of Coleman Day, Paul Smith, Albert Lay, Lester Centers, Leroy Moretz, Elmer Lewis, and others is more urgent to America than one more turbine….

During Keith’s time at Pine Mountain, she asked permission to bring Glen Camp with her to attend the School. Camp was the son of a family friend and, as Mrs. Keith wrote, “…in a close figurative sense, he is my eldest grandchild.” Despite the “School policy of granting places to boys and girls of mountain areas only,” Camp was accepted in August 1943 in accordance with the clause, “except in rare instances which shall be duly taken up with the Board.” Keith paid for Camp’s tuition for the two years he attended the School, plus a donation to the School after he graduated in appreciation for allowing him to attend.

The contracts between Mrs. Keith and the School were the same for each of the school years: $80.00 per month; meals in Laurel House; room at Laurel House, including heat and light; laundry and ironing of four garments per week; vacation of two weeks with pay at Christmas; two weekends off each semester. Signed by the Director (Glyn Morris in 1941 and 1942 and William D. Webb in 1943) and Evelyn K. Wells (Chairman of Personnel Committee).

Following WWII she returned to California where she began working for national security in the U.S. Naval Electronics Lab at Point Loma in San Diego. (This may have been the period during which she received an M.A. from University of California at Berkeley.)

Keith continued to keep in close touch with her contacts at Pine Mountain Settlement School. According to the “Gilley News” section of The Mountain Eagle, Whitesburg, Kentucky, Keith returned to visit Pine Mountain and Mr. and Mrs. B.F. Hall [Boone Hall?] in June 1945 after which she returned to her home in Campbell, California. In a letter to Margaret Nace dated September 30, 1945, Keith wrote these nostalgic words:

…I do miss the children and all of you dear colleagues; and I miss Staff Meeting! and Curriculum Meeting! and the pesky 4:15 group teachers meetings! Pine Mountain is indeed a life in itself….

But as much as she missed the School, she was happy in her new career with the University of California’s Navy Defense program, begun just after peace was declared with Japan. In the same letter to Nace, she wrote:

..the work for which I am to compute goes right on, peace or war. It is delightful work in thrilling environment, and so easy after Pine Mountain or even life at home!… Just computing, 8 hours a day, with slide rule and tables, and laying out computing schemes for two others less keen on formulas than I. But it’s so fascinating, I take it home at night and fall asleep over it.

A year later, in a November 1946 letter to Margaret Nace, she again described her enthusiasm for her work with the U.S. Navy Electronics Lab:

I’m deep in the mathematics of electronic communications, a Friden calculating machine on my left and stacks of reference books on my right. It’s glorious fun, and I pray they keep me on such stuff with its peacetime significance.

Yet Pine Mountain was never far from her mind. Beginning in 1947 she began giving talks about the School to various groups, mainly church and women’s organizations. She corresponded closely with the School to gather supplies for the presentations, such as At Home in the Hills, a book of John Spelman prints; Fireside Industries crafts; PMSS calendars; PMSS Memorial Booklets; and films about PMSS including one by the Harmon Foundation, another titled “On Our Way,” and a movie about the School’s co-operative program.

Keith’s first talk was on April 21, 1947, to the Business and Professional Women’s Group of the First Congregational Church in San Diego. She reported that they were a “very appreciative audience…I’m still breathless from the rapt attention and earnest comments….” Keith gave many more talks as the Pine Mountain School became a popular subject among the San Diego groups.

Keith continued to keep up with the School’s activities and workers throughout the 1950s, exchanging letters with then-Director Burton Rogers and Fern Hayes, Secretary, and sending generous donations on a regular basis. On December 10, 1955, she wrote:

Dear Pine Mountaineers: ‘My heart’s in the Highlands — my heart is not here….’ So I’ll send this letter after it. Maybe it’s there in the Chapel, beside the little Crib; or back in the dim-lit pews, proudly singing every word in the dark — a sort of spiritual “Look! No Hands!”

By the late 1950s, Keith was excelling in her career with the Navy Electronics Lab at Point Loma in San Diego, California. Her work on sonar systems for the U.S. Navy was experimental and complex. Her 1957 publication on sonar systems for the Defense Technical Information Center dealt with the travel-time of refracted rays of sound as they are found in underwater sound propagation. Her work and those at the Lab were often ground-breaking and critical to the later development of signal processing systems such as LORAD (Long-Range Air Defense) and related fields.

Upon retirement, she returned to her childhood town of Campbell in northern California and immediately became a civic icon when she waged a personal battle against the encroaching urbanization that was destroying trees in the once quiet deep redwoods community she cherished and in the rich loam of the San Jose valley.

Alice Joy Keith’s Fight to Save the Roosevelt Redwood

One of the most telling stories surrounding Alice Joy Keith took place in 1956 when she learned that a tree planted by U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903 near Campbell (CA) High School was scheduled for removal. The tree, called the Roosevelt Redwood, was in the path of a new freeway corridor that was being built to address the fast pace of growth in the San Jose area. For a time Keith prevailed in her attempts to save the tree, but ultimately the grand Sequoia was removed.

Theodore Roosevelt, on a visit to the area, dedicated the new high school named for him and shoveled the dirt around the tree planted next to the school. The Roosevelt Redwood, a Sequoia sempervirens, became a memorial for all who grew up in the Campbell area. By 1956 that tree was a towering monument for the community and all those who had watched it grow. Alice Joy Keith had a particular fondness for both the tree and the school. She had graduated from the Campbell High School in 1903. As a young lady just leaving her youth, she must have listened carefully to what the President had to say to her and her fellow students. As she participated in the ceremony, she heard the President admonish the students that he knew of nothing…

…that bids better for our material well-being than the tree culture; and I know of nothing among the many things that the National Grange has done that it has done better than fostering the habit of caring for the forests where they exist, and the planting of new trees. And then even above trees come the children. That is the all important part. It is a peculiar pleasure to me to address the children. I have but just one word to say to you; it is something I should say to your elders also. I believe in play and I believe in work. I want to see you play hard while you play, and when you work do not play at all. [As quoted in the June 1903 Oriole, the Campbell High School yearbook.]

President Roosevelt’s tree was with her at the beginning of Alice Joy Keith’s long career, but unfortunately it did not persist until the end of her days. Its saga, however, has a happy ending. A July 5, 1956, Campbell Press story entitled “Now It Can Be Told; Long Time Resident Reveals Secret of Replanting of Memorial Tree,” tells how the stump from the fallen tree was rescued by local Garden Club members from the dump where it had been deposited and it was replanted. Its bare roots took hold and the tree began to grow.

Perhaps Alice Joy Keith had channeled Katherine Pettit and Lucy Braun, but her fight to save the Roosevelt Redwood was as fierce as the two Pine Mountain models whose efforts to save the virgin forests of eastern Kentucky are legend. Keith put all her emotion into saving the tree. Perhaps she recalled the many stories she heard at Pine Mountain about the battles waged by the School to save the regional forests for its children. Like Pettit and Braun, she was unable to save the majestic tree but her dogged determinism inspired and today the “child” of the Roosevelt Redwood growing from its stump, can be found in nearby Vasona Park.

Along the way Keith inherited another tall tale that is connected to the Roosevelt Redwood. It was told that she discovered that the Roosevelt tree was dying and she slipped out at night and replaced the original tree with a healthy tree. Her version of the story is far more interesting, as recorded in the same July 5, 1956, article in the Campbell Press. The interview of Keith contains a confession of Keith’s that she did secretly replace a tree, but not the Roosevelt Redwood. A Monterey pine that was nearby had been planted in memory of Campbell High School’s first principal and the tree was dying. In 1913 she visited the school at night and replaced the pine. The article closed with the typical Keith gusto, “Here let the rumor cease!”

This account of the Roosevelt Redwood and Keith’s role was excerpted from a well-written and well-researched essay by Susan Sargent, titled “Presidential Visits Then and Now” that was submitted to The California Pioneers of Santa Clara County Essay Contest in April 2011.

Alice Joy Keith Remembered by Thad Bell

Thad Bell worked for the Navy Underwater Sound Laboratory in New London, CT, from 1946 until past his 1985 retirement. He remembers Alice Joy Keith in his narrative “Sixty Years Ago” on the Sunday Log website:

In the late 50s I used to visit the Naval Electronics Lab at Point Loma [San Diego, CA], frequently exchanging information on related sonar work with a Mel Pederson, who had an Alice Joy Keith as an assistant, I assume the same “Mrs. Keith” whom you talked about in your 21 November letter! The main building of that laboratory (NEL) was also perched upon the top of Point Loma. The cafeteria had a gorgeous view of the ocean, as did the places you were looking at where Mrs. Keith lived.

Response from the editor, Gene Barber:

Very Interesting. I worked at NEL from 1950 until 1956 — mainly measuring submarine self-noise and radiated noise and deep sea ambient noise. I have several sea stories of those days. I was also drilling with a submarine reserve unit from 1949 until 1954. Yes the view of San Diego Bay and the Pacific is magnificent from atop Point Loma. One of my early joys was in designing with transistors, starting in 1954 — the first year they were commercially available; many engineers were leery of them. You may well have met the same Mrs. Keith. She was some 20 years older than I was — she took her dog to work with her.

See Also:
AUGUST ANGEL Correspondence
GLEN D. CAMP Jr. Student – Biography


Alice Joy Keith

Alt. Title

Mrs. Alice Joy Keith ; Alice Joy-Keith ; Mrs. C.A. Jack (?) ;




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY

Alt. Creator

Ann Angel Eberhardt ; Helen Hayes Wykle ;

Subject Keyword

Alice Joy Keith ; Mrs. Alice Joy Keith ; Alice Joy-Keith ; Pine Mountain Settlement School ; teachers ; Columbia University ; women’s clubs ; Women’s Organization of West Center Congregational Church ; United Church of Christ ; The Herald Statesman ; Caney Creek Community Center ; boarding high schools ; Arthur Dodd ; Hendy Iron Works ; Glen Camp ; students ; contracts ; Laurel House ; vacation ; laundry ; ironing ; Glyn Morris ; William D. Webb ; Evelyn K. Wells ; WWII ; national security ; University of California ; Navy Defense program ; computing ; electronic communications ; Friden calculating machines ; fundraising talks ; At Home in the Hills ; PMSS Memorial Booklets ; Harmon Foundation film ;  “On Our Way” film ; co-operative program film ; Business and Professional Women’s Group ; Naval Electronics Lab at Point Loma ; University of California ; sonar systems ; U.S. Navy ; Defense Technical Information Center ; signal processing systems ; LORAD ; theoretical physics ; aircraft design ; WWII ; draftsmanship ; urbanization ; Theodore Roosevelt ; Campbell High School ; Roosevelt Redwood ; Sequoia ; garden clubs ; Katherine Pettit ; Lucy Braun ;  Vasona Park ; The California Pioneers of Santa Clara County ; The Mountain Eagle ; Mr. and Mrs. B.F. Hall ; Pine Mountain, KY ; Burton Rogers ; Fern Hayes ; donations ; Thad Bell ;  Gene Barber ; Harlan County, KY ; Yonkers, NY ; Mount Vernon, NY ; San Diego, CA ; Campbell, CA ; San Jose, CA ; Whitesburg, KY ; Pippa Passes, KY ; New London, CT  ;

Subject LCSH

Keith Alice Joy, — Born c. 1886.
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.) — History.
Harlan County (Ky.) — History.
Education — Kentucky — Harlan County.
Rural schools — Kentucky — History.
Schools — Appalachian Region, Southern.
Humanitarian Intervention — History.
Sonar Sound Analyzers.




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY




Collections ; text ; image ;


Original and copies of documents and correspondence in file folders in filing cabinet


Series 09: Staff/Personnel




Is related to: Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, Series 09: Staff/Personnel.

Coverage Temporal

1903 – 1957

Coverage Spatial

Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Yonkers, NY ; Mount Vernon, NY ; San Diego, CA ; Campbell, CA ; San Jose, CA ; Whitesburg, KY ; Pippa Passes, KY; New London, CT ;


Any display, publication, or public use must credit the Pine Mountain Settlement School. Copyright retained by the creators of certain items in the collection, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.




Core documents, correspondence, writings, and administrative papers of Alice Joy Keith ; clippings, photographs, books by or about Alice Joy Keith ;




“[Identification of Item],” [Collection Name] [Series Number, if applicable]. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY.

Processed By

Helen Hayes Wykle ; Ann Angel Eberhardt ;

Last Updated

2007-09-14 hhw ; 2014-11-03 hhw ; 2015-09-06 aae ; 2020-07-19 hhw;



Alice Joy Keith.” Alice Joy Keith Correspondence ; PMSS Staff Directory. Series 09: Staff/Personnel. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Internet resource.

Bell, Thad. “Sixty Years Ago.” Gene Barber, Ed., Sunday Log.
sundaylognovember25,2007?pli=1 (accessed 2015-09-24). Internet resource.

“Elect Officers at West Center.” The Herald Statesman. Yonkers, NY: 12 April 1934, p. 15.
 (accessed 09 September 2015). Internet resource.

“Gilley News.” The Mountain Eagle. Whitesburg, KY. 28 June 1945, page 2. (accessed 09 September 2015). Internet resource.

“Now It Can Be Told: Long Time Resident Reveals Secret of Replanting of Memorial Tree.” Campbell Press, July 5, 1956.

Sargent, Susan. “Presidential Visits Then and Now,” submitted to The California Pioneers of Santa Clara County Essay Contest, April 2011.
(accessed 6 September 2015).

Theodore Roosevelt: “Remarks at Campbell, California,” May 11, 1903. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. (accessed 9 September 2015). Internet resource.

Selected Bibliography


Navy Electronics Lab, San Diego, CA, & Joy-Keith, Alice. Theoretical Time Resolution of Sound Energy Returns from a Target in the First and Second LORAD Zones, 1957. Internet resource.

Abstract: In connection with a report on underwater sound propagation, several studies were made of the relative travel-time required for refracted rays of sound from a 50-foot source to reach a given point receiver. These follow at least four possible paths. The phase differences of such arrivals were studied over the range of the first zone for a 50-foot source and a 100-foot receiver. This led to a further study, the results of which are presented here in a technical memorandum as being perhaps timely to investigations in signal processing for LORAD and in neighboring fields.

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