Honoring the Life of Dr. O’Keefe

Honoring the Life of Dr. OKeefe


On Oct. 23, 2016, Dr. Kathleen O’Keefe, professor at Piedmont College, passed away in her sleep.

“She would do anything to help students, faculty and staff,” said Dr. Don Gnecco, Dean of the School of Education. “She had a can-do attitude and one always felt genuinely welcome in her presence.”

O’Keefe was not only a professor, but served as Coordinator of the Education Specialist degree program in curriculum and instruction and as chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning. She joined the Piedmont faculty in 2007 on a part-time basis and became full time in 2008. Since then, she has taught at the undergraduate, graduate, masters, specialists and doctoral levels.

She worked in the education field for 46 years, touching the lives of children and adults alike. Aside from her teaching role, she is also a mother and grandmother.

In August 2015, O’Keefe was diagnosed with a rare liver duct cancer, but decided that she would continue to teach and do her normal routines as much as possible. She planned to retire in May 2017.

According to the School of Education, she was an unusually positive, upbeat and enthusiastic person. Gnecco referred to her as, “Most caring, thoughtful, kind and energetic.” The School of Education is working to establish a memorial in her name that, “represents not only the life Kathy led, but her devotion and dedication to the training of teachers.”

They are raising money to have two reading benches and to update the portico, the entrance to the School of Education, in her honor. If funds allow, they also want to have a memorial placed at the school where O’Keefe’s niece is employed. Anyone interested in donating money, supplies or time to this fund can contact Dr. Julie Palmour.

“Dr. O’K, as we sometimes called her, was one of those rare individuals who made you feel comfortable the moment you met her,” said Gnecco. “Everyone who knew her was forever changed in positive ways.”