The Penn State Beaver community is mourning the loss of its longtime former chancellor Gary B. Keefer.
Keefer died on Saturday, Dec. 12, after a battle with ALS.
“He was truly a role model for all of us and led our campus with high morals, character and integrity,” Interim Chancellor Donna Kuga said. “Gary will be greatly missed by all who knew him on campus as well as throughout our community and he'll always be remembered with deep respect, great appreciation and much affection.”
Keefer joined Penn State Beaver as the director of academic affairs and a professor of engineering in 1996. One year later, he was asked to serve as Beaver’s interim campus executive officer, and in January 1998 the university appointed him CEO, a title which was changed to chancellor in 2005.
Keefer was the longest-serving chancellor in Beaver campus history and oversaw many changes during his 18-year tenure, including the creation of five baccalaureate degrees, the construction and renovation of campus buildings, the expansion of athletics and an emphasis on international students and study.
To mark his significance to the campus, colleagues, alumni and friends established an endowed scholarship in his name. In March 2014, just before his retirement, Penn State Board of Trustees voted to name the campus’ new health facility the Gary B. Keefer Wellness Center.
But the true mark he left on campus was not on a program or a building; it was on colleagues and students.
Many of those students took to Facebook after learning of Keefer’s passing. One, Daina Marquise, fondly recalled joking with Keefer as she walked to class and giving him a high-five at graduation.
“He had a way of making even the most ordinary things seem special and interesting,” Marquise posted. “An extraordinary man with a gentle soul and a big heart. You made my years at Penn State an experience I’ll cherish forever.”
Keefer valued such relationships with students. It was evident in his 2014 retirement announcement:
“The fundamental strength of the campus has and will continue to be its people. I have said this many times before, and want to say it one final time. What I am most proud of is the high quality faculty and staff we have at this campus. In one way or another, all of you have made an impact on our students. It is not only with the quality of teaching and/or the out-of-classroom support you provide as a faculty member or staff, it is also the fact the students know you care about them. I want to encourage you to maintain that campus environment in the future.”
The Keefer family will receive friends from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 15, at Hill and Kunselman Funeral Home in Beaver Falls. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 16, at Cup Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Beaver Falls.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to the ALS Association or the Gary B. Keefer Endowed Scholarship Fund.