Remembering Bern O’Keefe

It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Dr. Bern O’Keefe on Monday, February 3rd. Bern will be remembered by everyone who knew him as a presence larger than life. His optimistic attitude and curiosity about everything made it a joy to be around him. He was a gentleman and a scholar, which made him a great colleague who could always be counted on for support and advice. He loved teaching and sharing his knowledge and experience with students and clinicians. Beyond that, he made sure that we remembered that there is more to life than work and he modelled and always encouraged one to live a balanced life. His love of sports and knowledge of baseball, in particular, was legendary. When Bern retired, he took up golf with great passion and could always be found on the links in London, Ontario or Florida.

Bern received a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in Speech Pathology from Emerson College in 1964 and 1970, respectively. He worked clinically in New Hampshire and Seattle, Washington and then joined the faculty at the University of Toronto as a lecturer in 1971. He was key in the development of the program and the profession as the department moved to an M.H.Sc. from a diploma in 1978. He returned to school to pursue doctoral studies and obtained his PhD from Pennsylvania State University in 1992, where his dissertation focused on The Effects of Communication and Outputs on Attitudes Towards Individuals Who Use Augmentative Communication and on Output Preferences. During the 1995-96 academic year, he served as Acting Chair, and then as Associate Chair from 1996 to 2005, the year of his retirement. Bern felt a very strong commitment to our academic and professional community throughout his career. He served as President of the Ontario Speech and Hearing Association from 1974 to 1975 and of the Canadian Speech and Hearing Association from 1982 to 1983. He was a consultant in augmentative communication for the Ontario Ministry of Health from 1986 to 1987. While a faculty member in the department, he taught courses in many areas including cerebral palsy, medical elective, aural rehabilitation, stuttering and the undergraduate survey course on speech and language disorders, the latter that he particularly enjoyed. However, it is for his expertise in augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and his strong focus on quality of life and consumer advocacy, for which he will be remembered most. He supervised two outstanding doctoral students, Dr. Rupal Patel and Dr. Joan Truxler, who both pursued research in AAC.

Bern will be missed greatly by his wife, Maureen, and sons, Sean and Matt, and their families and all who knew him. He was one-of-a-kind and a friend to all.

Luc De Nil and Susan J. Wagner