Dr. Tim O’Keefe & Xhenet Aliu to Leave Piedmont after Spring


The 2018-2019 academic year has brought on many changes for Piedmont College. A sorority and fraternity have built communities on campus, buildings have been renovated and students have come and gone. Making their exit from Piedmont are English professor Dr. Tim O’Keefe and Athens campus librarian and instruction coordinator Xhenet Aliu, who will both be departing after this semester.

O’Keefe has taught in the English department for seven years and Aliu has resided as the librarian and instruction coordinator of the Athen campus for almost four years, teaching Creative Writing on the Demorest campus for only a semester. The duo will be joining the faculty of the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, as professors in the English department.

The decision to leave Piedmont for a school in an entirely different state did not come easy for O’Keefe and Aliu. The transition from a small, tight knit community to a large, tenure ensured institution will prove to be a difficult, yet rewarding case for the two.

“There was a lot of deliberation, both individually and jointly with my partner, Dr. O’Keefe,” Aliu said. “We’ve been living in Athens since 2012, and Dr. O’Keefe has been at Piedmont that entire time. It takes a while to build a community, both locally and in the workplace, but after seven years we definitely have one in place and we’re frankly reticent to leave it. That said, we’ve been presented with a professional opportunity that I think we’d regret if we didn’t pursue it. It’s bittersweet to leave for sure, but we’re also comforted by the fact that we’ll only be moving a few hours away and will definitely get to visit our friends here fairly regularly.”

Though leaving Piedmont came as a tough decision for O’Keefe and Aliu, the University of North Carolina-Greensboro does not come without its benefits.

“One of the reasons this position is so attractive to me is that I’ll get the opportunity to teach and advise both undergraduate students, like I do here, but also graduate students pursuing their MFAs in Creative Writing,” Aliu said. “As a research institution, there are also a lot of

opportunities and resources for research projects. There’s a Humanities institute, where I think I can meld some of my library and archives work with my creative work, which is nerd nirvana.”

“UNC-G is a much larger, public institution, so that will take some getting used to, but its offer of research support and tenure-tracking made for a very compelling case,” O’Keefe said.

O’Keefe and Aliu are not leaving Piedmont without heavy hearts. Leaving any long term position comes with its share of mourning and O’Keefe has several aspects of Piedmont that he will miss.

“I have many friends who are also academics, and I can say that it’s a very rare thing to be surrounded by colleagues who are so ready and willing to help each other,” O’Keefe said. “That’s not just the benefit of a small school, it goes beyond that, and even though I’ve tried to express my gratitude to those around me, I’m sure I’ll look back at my time at Piedmont and see that I took some things for granted. Also, I’ve had students, who know who they are, I hope, whose passion and curiosity have nourished all of my professional endeavors, and I will miss them very much.”

O’Keefe will be in attendance of the Trillium release party on May 1 in the Mason Scharfenstein Museum of Art from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., if anyone would like to say their goodbyes in person. For those who are not able to attend, O’Keefe and Aliu have goodbye messages for their Piedmont community.

“Piedmont introduced me to the South, to Georgia, and to one of the most prosperous periods of my life,” O’Keefe said. “I’m excited to begin the next chapter, but that excitement is based on a keen appreciation for what has ushered it into being. And that’s what Piedmont will always be for me—a formative beginning, a foundation. Thank you, all.”

“It’s not you, it’s me,” Aliu said. “On a serious note, one of the things Piedmont emphasizes is lifelong learning and service, so moving on from Piedmont for me is about taking on new professional challenges, not about abandoning the institution. My professional foundation in academia was formed at Piedmont and I’m sure I’ll maintain relationships here for years to come.”