As noted in our last newsletter, the History Department mourns the loss of Tim O’Keefe, a much-beloved faculty member. We were heartened, however, by the flood of condolence notes that came to the office and were forwarded to the (very grateful) O’Keefe family.
Some of Tim’s colleagues and a former student shared their memories:
“Tim O’Keefe was the kind of professor that parents and students imagine they would have when they enrolled at Santa Clara University; a person dedicated to his students and to his school. His head and his heart (and dare I say, his soul) were firmly grounded in this campus. When he argued with the administration, he did so as an insider working to make SCU a better place for students. To me, he seemed to be consummately unselfish, working for what he thought would be best for our students and school.”
“Tim was so kind, so generous, and had such a delightful sense of humor, and those defining characteristics never faltered. On the first day [of a class for History majors], I would go around the room, asking each student why he or she was a History major. More often than not, the answer I received was, ‘I took Professor O’Keefe for Western Civ in my first year.’ He changed so many students’ lives. They LOVED him, and benefited so richly from his contagious passion for history. I am so grateful for myself, and for our students, that Tim made his career at SCU.”
“While an undergraduate at SCU I was lucky enough to get to know Tim as an academic advisor, through multiple classes, and time spent with him, and Julie, over 10 weeks as part of the Durham England summer program. In Durham, Tim taught a class on the English Reformation and I am still shaped by our essay assignment that asked us to make a case for one of two historical perspectives on the causes of the Reformation. I can’t comment on the quality of the essays we produced, but the prompt and our interactions with Tim led to conversations outside of class, even in the pubs, over what interpretation Tim found most convincing (he wouldn’t tell us) and what was the “right” answer. Needless to say, it is no small feat to get undergraduates who planned to spend 10 weeks enjoying the benefits of living in a foreign country to be invigorated by an essay prompt on the English Reformation. For me it was a transformative moment and an example of how Tim’s love of the material and his students was profoundly influential for many who were lucky enough to cross his path. Throughout my journey at Santa Clara and beyond, Tim’s exacting standards and love for history was a profound gift and a source of constant inspiration.”
Tim’s was a life well lived.