Botany Professor Joe Keefe Mourned After Untimely Death

Michael J. Arvizu and Sommere Hawkins
El Vaquero Sta

Glendale Community College is suffering the loss of long-time botany professor Joseph Keefe, who died April 26 at the age of 59 of pancreatic and liver cancer.

Keefe was born on January 19, 1942, in Santa Paula, and after graduating from Santa Paula High School, went on to receive both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UC Santa Barbara. When he got a job at GCC, long-time co-worker Ron Harlan remembers that he was thrilled to have a full-time position.

“He was a real botanist from the time he was little,” his mother, Helena Keefe said. She added that Keefe would always have a net to capture butterflies with.

“He was somebody who really enjoyed teaching,” said Harlan. His highest achievement at GCC, says Harlan, was working with the students with disabilities. In addition to teaching introductory biology and botany, Keefe’s greatest joy was to teach hearing and vision-impaired students.

Harlan remembers Keefe as someone who had an incredible joy for the world around him. And in loving so many things about nature, Keefe made it his goal to provide that same experience for the disabled students he was teaching.

Keefe also enjoyed traveling. “When he was a child, his father and I would take him places with us,” said Mrs. Keefe. “He would lie on the ground and look at ants.”

Keefe would always share things that interested him with the rest of his colleagues. Whether it was a bug, a plant, or anything that interested him, he would tell others about it, which is what Harlan says he will miss most about his friend.

In addition to his many on-campus activities, he was an active member of several motorcycle clubs, as well as “Being Alive,” a support group for HIV survivors.

Several colleagues and students attended the funeral mass May 5 in Santa Paula.

“So many students said he was a teacher they could really talk to and get an answer from,” said Mrs. Keefe.

Memorial services for Joseph Keefe will be held in Kreider Hall on Wednesday at 2 p.m. Donations may be made to the Glendale College Biology Department, care of Ron Harlan.

Plans are in the works for a Joseph Keefe Memorial Scholarship, a Botany Library, and a grove.