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Photo of Silas  Keehn

Silas Keehn

  • President, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, 1981–1994
  • Born: June 30, 1930
  • Died: February 13, 2016

Silas Keehn was the seventh president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, serving from July 1, 1981, to September 1, 1994.

Keehn received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, in 1952, and a master’s degree in business administration from the Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration in 1957.1

After graduating, he joined the staff of Mellon Bank. While at Mellon, he held positions of increasing responsibility in the Credit Division, the International Department, and the National Department before becoming vice chairman. Keehn left Mellon in 1980 when he was named chairman of the board of directors at Pullman, Inc.1

Keehn assumed the role as president of the Chicago Fed in 1981,2 bringing his expertise from the private sector to the Fed and its changing role in the financial system.3 In one of the most well-known chapters in Keehn’s time as president, the Chicago Fed made an emergency loan to Continental Illinois National Bank, helping stave off its collapse and giving rise to the phrase "too big to fail." The Continental Illinois incident led to more questions about the Fed's role in banking regulation and as the lender of last resort. In 1989, Keehn proposed new regulations as well as reforms for banking and deposit insurance.4

Keehn retired from the Chicago Fed in 1994.5 He died in 2016.1


Written by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago as of November 2013 and updated by Ella Needler and Genevieve Podleski as of July 2022. See disclaimer and update policy.