Robert O’Kane

Posted on July 27, 2017

Robert O’Kane was Dean of the School of Education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro from 1967 to 1974. O’Kane came to UNCG from Rutgers University, where he had been a professor in the School of Education. A native of New Hampshire, O’Kane received his B.A. in Political Science from the University of New Hampshire in 1947. His studies there had been interrupted by military service in World War II. He received a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration from the University of Vermont in 1952, and his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1958. During the 1950s, while O’Kane was pursuing his graduate studies, he was the supervising principal of five elementary schools in his hometown of Dover, New Hampshire, and the superintendent of schools for school districts in Ipswich, Massachusetts and Long Island, New York. An initial major focus for O’Kane upon becoming Dean at UNCG, was the recruitment of outstanding faculty to the school. In reality, this meant he was in the practice of hiring several fellow Harvard graduates. It became something of a joke among the “non-Harvard” faculty of the school to call O’Kane and his group of new hires the “Harvard Mafia.” The School of Education experienced substantial growth during O’Kane’s tenure, with the number of faculty member more than doubling, and increases in enrollment at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. After resigning as Dean, O’Kane returned to the classroom as a Professor in the School of Education, until his early retirement in 1985. In his later years, O’Kane returned to his native New Hampshire, and died there in 2007.

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