Ann Keppel, women's rights advocate, dead at 78
By Shayna Coleon
Advertiser Staff WRiter
Ann Keppel, a staunch advocate of women's rights who helped establish the first women's centers at the University of Hawai'i's Manoa and Hilo campuses, died of a heart attack Tuesday in Kaimuki. She was 78.
Ann Keppel was former director of the University of Hawai'i women's studies program. She retired from UH in 1992.
"She was a trendsetter in so many ways," said Meda Chesney-Lind, a professor of women's studies at UH and one of Keppel's students in the late 1960s. "She's the reason why we have a women's center on campus. She's the reason we have a good women's studies program.
"She was used to being a pioneer."
Keppel was born in Wisconsin in 1924, and while she taught history to high school students from 1946 to 1956, Keppel earned her master's and doctoral degrees in history from the University of Wisconsin.
In 1958, Keppel was an assistant professor at the University of Vermont, and in 1965, Keppel moved to Hawai'i when UH hired her as an associate professor for the department of educational foundation.
"She was always very interested in education," said Keppel's older sister, Elizabeth Tracey. "That was her priority throughout her life."
Keppel was also selected in 1971 to be a member of the University's Commission on the Status of Women. Harlan Cleveland, UH president at the time, called the commissioners "guardians for women's rights on campus."
In 1987, Keppel became the director of the UH women's studies program, focusing on the role of women and gender had in affecting history, psychology, political theory, literature, art, biology and education. Chesney-Lind credited Keppel with reviving the curriculum of the women's studies program when she became the director of the department.
In 1991, Keppler came up with a proposal for the women's centers and lobbied the state Legislature to finance the programs. Today, the centers offer sexual assault prevention programs for male and female students, provide support services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered students and run work-study programs for students who are receiving public assistance.
She retired from UH in 1992.
In addition to her sister in Wisconsin, Keppel is survived by her nephews, Robert, James and Steven, and nieces, Mary Sargeant, Jane Quall and Anne Sawyer.
Services are pending.