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Kevin O’Keefe

Class of 1974
Major/Minor: English / International Studies

The 1974 Sophie Kerr Winner


Kevin O’Keefe is an executive with an award-winning international public relations firm and former chairman of the Maryland Higher Education Commission.

His career has followed a dual track of leadership and management in the corporate sector, working for one of the world’s largest public relations firms, while simultaneously serving in the higher education sector through extensive involvement in college governance, public policy, strategic planning, communications and marketing in roles as a trustee, gubernatorial appointee, volunteer, adviser and consultant. He serves as president of the Maryland operations of Weber Shandwick Worldwide, where he leads a team of more than 40 consultants and communicators who advise corporations, non-profits and government agencies regionally, nationally and internationally. His areas of expertise include public relations, public affairs, crisis management, brand management, strategy development and web-enabled communications. He has developed and managed programs for a diverse client list, including Constellation Energy, New York Life, Deutsche Bank, Chase Manhattan, Johns Hopkins University, Honeywell, US West, CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield and University of Maryland Medical System. He counsels clients nationally as a member of practice teams focused on higher education, healthcare and financial services. He is the recipient of multiple national awards for achievement in public relations and marketing, including the Clio Award, the Silver Anvil Award from the Public Relations Society of America, and the SABRE Award for the nation’s best crisis communication program.

Since 2005 to 2011, he has served as Chair of the Maryland Higher Education Commission, a 12-member citizens’ board appointed by the Governor with responsibility for oversight and policy-making for all post-secondary education in Maryland. He was appointed as Chair first by Republican Governor Robert Ehrlich and then reappointed by Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley. Governor O’Malley also named him Acting Secretary of Higher Education for Maryland from January through April 2007 during a period of transition between Secretaries. As Chair, his responsibilities include helping manage the Commission’s relationships with state legislators and the Governor’s office; presenting testimony to legislators to explain, promote and defend Commission decisions and actions; pursuing resolution of long-standing civil rights issues resulting from Maryland’s former de jure system of segregated higher education, and exercising the Commission’s authority to review and approve all new academic programs and new institutions. He is also a member of the Governor’s PreK to 20 Education Leadership Council, which provides coordination and guidance for all segments of education in the state, from pre-kindergarten through graduate school.

For Washington College, he has chaired trustee committees on Marketing, Student Life, and Admission & Financial Aid, served on three all-college strategic planning committees and three presidential search committees. He chaired President Tipson’s task force on marketing. He has been a contributing editor to the Washington College magazine since its inception and provides communications and marketing counsel to the College Relations, Development and Admissions offices.

He chaired the advisory board of the Johns Hopkins University downtown center in Baltimore, and has provided communication, marketing and strategy consulting to institutions including Johns Hopkins University, Goucher College, University of Baltimore, Stevenson University, College of Notre Dame, and Catholic Schools of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. He is a former trustee of the Independent College Fund of Maryland, and has served as keynote speaker for the Maryland Independent Colleges and Universities Association’s Legislative Day in Annapolis in 2005 and 2009. He received the Presidents’ Award from MICUA in 2011 for his service to higher education in Maryland.

He is president of the Board of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the largest non-governmental provider of human services in Maryland. He is a trustee of the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, where he heads the development committee. He previously served on the boards of the following organizations: Living Classrooms, Live Baltimore Marketing Center, Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, better Business Bureau of Maryland and the Baltimore City Life Museums. He is a graduate of The Leadership Program for emerging civic leaders, which is sponsored by the Greater Baltimore Committee.

He is a cum laude graduate of Washington College, and earned an M.S. in Journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Kevin is the recipient of the 2011 Alumni Service Award for his significant contributions of time, talent and philanthropy to Washington College. He, his wife, Carolyn, and their daughters Grace and Maire reside in Baltimore.


2011 Alumni Service Award

Kevin is the recipient of the 2011 Alumni Service Award for his significant contributions of time, talent and philanthropy to Washington College.