On February 3, writer, teacher, editor, and musician Keith Botsford '44 delivered the third Dom Luke Childs lecture to the School Community. Botsford spoke on the subject of why artists choose to be artists. He cautioned, "Don't be an artist unless you absolutely have to – and then don't believe that it won't consume you... The Arts are exercise and practice. They require persistence and tenacity. You have to keep at it." However, he added, "The Arts will never bore you."
Botsford reminisced of his inspiring math teacher at Portsmouth, Headmaster Brady, as well as playing basketball and competitive tennis, "chasing Fr. Bede from corner to corner on the tennis court." He felt that Dr. Kelly's history classes, and his adage, "History is nothing but a bunch of stories," influenced him greatly as a writer. He was a contributor to the literary magazine, the Raven, on several occasions. Botsford, once a student of the great Hungarian composer Bela Bartok, praised the influence of the beauties of Gregorian Chant he heard while a student at Portsmouth. Botsford has composed numerous musical pieces including two song-cyles and a number of chamber works and is an accomplished dancer.
Born in Brussels, Botsford spoke of his childhood, much of which was spent bedridden due to a severe burn injury, and creating an imaginary life for himself. It was during this time that he read voraciously and grew to love the English language. His family was forced to evacuate their home in Italy during World War II and Botsford landed at Portsmouth Priory with a scholarship; he then went on to study Philosophy at Yale. After military service he studied Composition and Theory at the Manhattan School and Japanese at Columbia University. He received his Bachelor's degree at the University of Iowa (Writer's Workshop) and received his Master's Degree in French Literature from Yale in 1951. Botsford then studied law at Holborn College of Law and Gray's Inn (London) and comparative law at U. of Strasbourg.
Botsford's recent works include Out of Nowhere and Editors: The Best from Five Decades, an anthology of the best texts printed in the magazines he and good friend, Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Saul Bellow, have published over the last five decades. He has taught at Yale, Quinnipiac College, University of Iowa, Bard College, University of Puerto Rico, University of Texas, and Boston University. He is a contributing editor to Stand and Leviathan.
In addition, Botsford has been Director of the Ford Foundation's National Translation Center, and Deputy International Secretary of P.E.N.; He has served as a consultant in international sports law, and as Assistant to the President at the University of Puerto Rico and at Boston University; he had been Assistant Producer at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Connecticut, at MGM, and at CBS/TV, and has covered all of Mohammed Ali's fights and every World Cup.
In concluding his lecture, and before answering questions of the students, Botsford summed up his advice to any budding artists in the School, "Be curious, like a fox; sniff out new things. If you are really curious, you will always get there."