Educated at Wellesley (B.A., 1961, Durant Scholar), Oxford University (St. Anne's College, 1963, Philosophy, Politics and Economics - First Class Honours) and Yale University (Ph.D., Political Science, 1967 - Sterling Fellow), Keohane served on the faculties of the University of Pennsylvania, Swarthmore College and Stanford University.
She has published the Renaissance to the Enlightenment (1980) and Higher Ground: Ethics and Leadership in the Modern University (2006), as well as essays on feminism, the history of political thought and higher education.
She became president and professor of political science at Wellesley in 1981, and led the largest fundraising drive in the history of American private colleges, overturning conventional wisdom that women would not become heavily involved in a major philanthropic effort and were not supportive of higher education. Also during Keohane's tenure at Wellesley, she implemented an improved affirmative action program and increased both minority student enrollment and faculty hiring. She became President and Professor of Political Science at Duke University in 1993, where she championed increased faculty diversity and promotes the hiring and advancement of women faculty. She is currently the Laurance S. Rockefeller Distinguished Visiting Professor of Public Affairs at Princeton University.
As a political theorist, her major teaching and research interests are in leadership and inequality, with a particular emphasis on gender issues and the role of institutions, law and public policy in creating (or obstructing) opportunities for women around the world.
Keohane has been active in the field of political science, holding various positions in the American Political Science Association and serving as an editor of its journal. She serves on the Trilateral Commission, the Council of Foreign Relations, and on the boards of directors of IBM, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Director's Advisory Committee of the National Institutes of Health. She is also a member of the Harvard Corporation, and chairs the Board of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
She is a powerful contemporary role model for women, a trailblazer who has performed with excellence and who has shattered centuries of prejudice about women's capabilities in academe.