Former executive secretary Bernie Keeler dies

January 13, 2015
Dr. Bernie Keeler served as the Association's executive secretary from 1968 until 1988.

Noted scholar remembered for his "great contribution to the teaching profession"

Dr. Bernie Keeler, the Association’s fourth executive secretary, died on January 1, 2015, after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 84.

One of Alberta’s most distinguished and respected teachers, Keeler served as executive secretary for 20 years, from 1968 to 1988."He was a truly remarkable visionary and leader," said Dr. Gordon Thomas, the ATA’s current executive secretary, who joined staff under Keeler’s tenure in 1984.

"Many aspects of the structure of our organization — our program areas, the deployment of our staff resources, our protocols — were developed by Keeler. But much more important, our mission, our core values and beliefs very much represent Keeler’s view of the goals of a teachers’ organization," Thomas noted.

"We continue to seek full self-governance of the profession; we continue to advocate for a unified teaching profession; we continue to value a collegial model."

Keeler was born in Dartmouth, N.S. and graduated from Dalhousie University with a bachelor of arts degree in history and modern languages. He taught school in Barr, France for a year before returning to Canada to continue his education. He completed a bachelor of education degree at Acadia University before teaching in Nova Scotia.

He then pursued graduate work at Laval University, earning a master of arts degree. In his early career, he became a member of the executive of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union. He journeyed to Edmonton in the late 1950s to undertake doctoral studies at the University of Alberta, graduating with a doctor of philosophy degree in educational administration in 1961.

A teacher with Edmonton Public Schools, Keeler was the founding principal of Jasper Place High School. A respected scholar, Keeler was later named director of research with his board. He was elected to Provincial Executive Council as Edmonton City district representative in 1963 and was elected vice-president in 1966.

In Canada’s centennial year (and the 50th anniversary of the ATA in 1967–68), Keeler served as ATA president. Keeler also served as a member of the board of directors of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation and worked extensively with other teachers’ organizations and government agencies around the world.

Keeler also made very extensive contributions to his community, including a continuing commitment to the Unitarian Church of Edmonton, and received much recognition, including an honorary doctorate from Athabasca University. He received the ATA’s highest award, honorary membership, in 1993. The honour roll states, "Bernie Keeler’s personal qualities, incredible precision of thought, strongly held convictions and the courage to stand by them, are the key factors underlying his great contribution to the teaching profession." ❚