Barnaby C. Keeney, 66, a renaissance scholar and former college president who served as the first chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, died Wednesday at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, R.I., after a stroke. He lived in Little Comption, R.I.

Dr. Keeney was president of Brown University from 1955 to 1966, when he was chosen by President Lyndon B. Johnson to head the newly-established National Endowment for the Humanities.

He had headed the study group that first suggested a National Foundation for the Humanities, of which the National Endowment is a part. Under his leadership, which ended when he resigned in 1970, the Humanities Endowment created an upsurge in support for the arts in America with federal grants generating three times as much as private financing.

After leaving government service, Dr. Keeney served for a short time as chief executive officer of a consortium of five major Washington universities. c

From 1971 to 1976, when he retired, he was president of the Claremont, Calif., Graduate School.

Dr. Keeney was born in Halfway, Ore. He graduated from the University of North Carolina and earned a master's degree and a doctorate in history from Harvard University.

He was an Army intelligence officier in Europe during World War II. He was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals.

Dr. Keeney was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, which gave him its first award for distinguished service to the humanities. He held several honorary degrees and was a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Survivors include his wife of 38 years, the former Mary E. Chritchfield of Little Compton; a son, Thomas, of Washington; two daughters, Barbara A. Clark of Santa Cruz, Calif., and Elizabeth, of Little Compton, and three grandchildren.