Kenneth H. Toepfer, Former TC Provost and Professor Emeritus, Passes Away | Teachers College Columbia University

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Kenneth H. Toepfer, Former TC Provost and Professor Emeritus, Passes Away

Kenneth H. Toepfer (Ph.D. ’66) was named Provost and Professor of Higher Education in 1971 and served with Presidents John Fischer and Lawrence Cremin
Kenneth H. Toepfer (Ph.D. ’66) was named Provost and Professor of Higher Education in 1971 and served with Presidents John Fischer and Lawrence Cremin
Kenneth H. Toepfer (Ph.D. ’66), Teachers College Provost and Professor Emeritus, has passed away at age 88.

A first-generation college student, Toepfer was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Cornell College in Iowa. He received a master's degree in 1953 from Columbia University’s School of International Affairs before earning his TC doctorate in Higher Education. He served in the U.S. Army as a Corporal and Professor for the Armed Forces Information School in New Rochelle, New York, from 1953-1958.

[Contributions in Toepfer’s name can be made to the Toepfer Family Scholarship Fund at Teachers College.]

Toepfer began his academic career with Teachers College in 1961 as Coordinator of the Teachers for East Africa Project (TEA), which was launched in February of that year. One of the first international initiatives of the Kennedy Administration, TEA was a forerunner of the Peace Corps Program, initially providing teachers for secondary schools and teacher-training colleges in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Toepfer expanded the program to Afghanistan, Paraguay and other countries.

Toepfer subsequently spent three years as Assistant Dean of Education at SUNY Buffalo before returning to Teachers College as Director of Planning in 1967. He became Provost and Professor of Higher Education in 1971, working with Presidents John Fisher and Lawrence Cremin.  He served as Executive Officer overseeing the College, and contributed to the renovation of the Library, the development of Teachers College Press and other initiatives. He retired from TC in 1986 with a reputation for kindness, integrity and fairness. He strongly believed in the importance and power of education to improve the lives of all individuals, regardless of their background or geographic location

In 1987 Toepfer became Executive Vice President of American University in Cairo (AUC), where he chaired AUC’s committee to develop a five-year strategic plan and supervised multiple support offices. His major responsibility was to oversee the planning and physical expansion of the institution, including the construction of a new campus.  Returning to the United States in 1993, Toepfer served as AUC’s senior administrative representative in the United States until his final retirement in 1996.

Toepfer is survived by his wife of 62 years, Nancy Toepfer (nee Grimes); three daughters, Kathryn Permut (Howard) of Scarborough, NY, Elizabeth Toepfer-Hendey (Dan) of State College, PA, and Mary Dolce (Paul) of Fort Collins, CO; three grandchildren, Sam Permut, Sarah Permut, and Anna Hendey; in-laws Tom (Maureen) Grimes of Boalsburg, PA and Janis Kurz of State College, PA; and many nieces and nephews.

Published Friday, Mar 24, 2017

Kenneth H. Toepfer (Ph.D. ’66) was named Provost and Professor of Higher Education in 1971 and served with Presidents John Fischer and Lawrence Cremin
Kenneth H. Toepfer (Ph.D. ’66) was named Provost and Professor of Higher Education in 1971 and served with Presidents John Fischer and Lawrence Cremin
Kenneth H. Toepfer (Ph.D. ’66), Teachers College Provost and Professor Emeritus, has passed away at age 88.

A first-generation college student, Toepfer was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Cornell College in Iowa. He received a master's degree in 1953 from Columbia University’s School of International Affairs before earning his TC doctorate in Higher Education. He served in the U.S. Army as a Corporal and Professor for the Armed Forces Information School in New Rochelle, New York, from 1953-1958.

[Contributions in Toepfer’s name can be made to the Toepfer Family Scholarship Fund at Teachers College.]

Toepfer began his academic career with Teachers College in 1961 as Coordinator of the Teachers for East Africa Project (TEA), which was launched in February of that year. One of the first international initiatives of the Kennedy Administration, TEA was a forerunner of the Peace Corps Program, initially providing teachers for secondary schools and teacher-training colleges in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Toepfer expanded the program to Afghanistan, Paraguay and other countries.

Toepfer subsequently spent three years as Assistant Dean of Education at SUNY Buffalo before returning to Teachers College as Director of Planning in 1967. He became Provost and Professor of Higher Education in 1971, working with Presidents John Fisher and Lawrence Cremin.  He served as Executive Officer overseeing the College, and contributed to the renovation of the Library, the development of Teachers College Press and other initiatives. He retired from TC in 1986 with a reputation for kindness, integrity and fairness. He strongly believed in the importance and power of education to improve the lives of all individuals, regardless of their background or geographic location

In 1987 Toepfer became Executive Vice President of American University in Cairo (AUC), where he chaired AUC’s committee to develop a five-year strategic plan and supervised multiple support offices. His major responsibility was to oversee the planning and physical expansion of the institution, including the construction of a new campus.  Returning to the United States in 1993, Toepfer served as AUC’s senior administrative representative in the United States until his final retirement in 1996.

Toepfer is survived by his wife of 62 years, Nancy Toepfer (nee Grimes); three daughters, Kathryn Permut (Howard) of Scarborough, NY, Elizabeth Toepfer-Hendey (Dan) of State College, PA, and Mary Dolce (Paul) of Fort Collins, CO; three grandchildren, Sam Permut, Sarah Permut, and Anna Hendey; in-laws Tom (Maureen) Grimes of Boalsburg, PA and Janis Kurz of State College, PA; and many nieces and nephews.

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You are invited to share your reflections and memories here. Once your memory has been submitted and processed, it will appear in the space below. Thank you for taking the time to pay tribute to a member of the TC Community.

Reflections

Am thinking about the fine work done in organizing and coordinating the Teachers for East Africa Project during the 1960's by Kenneth H. Toepfer. Those of us who joined up and taught in East African schools appreciate all that was done at that time to ensure the smooth running of that international initiative. (I served from 1963-1967.) - Ted C. Essebaggers


I met Ken several years ago when visiting his daughter Liz in State College. He was eloquent, kind, funny, and shared his TC affiliation with pride. It was obvious to me that he cared deeply about the field of education, only slightly eclipsed by his love of family. - Lori Custodero