O'Keeffe motivated to foster culture of giving

When John O’Keeffe took the Oath of Canadian Citizenship in 2011, he found the entire ceremony poignant and moving. But one particular aspect of the proceedings stood out to O’Keeffe above the rest. Sitting in the assembly room among 30 other felicitous applicants waiting to swear allegiance to queen and country, O’Keeffe was struck by the words of a Court of Queen’s Bench judge who spoke about what it means to be Canadian.

John O'Keeffe sees giving back as a tenet of being truly Canadian.

“The thing that got me was the responsibility to foster a culture of giving,” says O’Keeffe. “Being charitable is part of the cultural fabric. It’s almost a prerequisite for calling yourself Canadian. You can have the piece of paper, you can have the passport, but if you’re really going to embody being Canadian you need to believe in the common good. You have to give back.”

O’Keeffe takes this sentiment to heart. He’s been a monthly contributor to the U of L’s Supporting Our Students (SOS) scholarship and bursary funds for years, making his first donation not long after joining the U of L staff as parking director. O’Keeffe has since become executive director of Campus Safety, a role that fully utilizes the skills he honed over a long and illustrious career in the British military.

Born in Rotherham, Yorkshire, England, O’Keeffe enlisted at the age of 16 and travelled the world in service with the Royal Military Police. O’Keeffe spent four years at CFB Suffield before retiring from military life in August 2009. Not one to sit idle, O’Keeffe began working at the U of L the very next day.

O’Keeffe draws many interesting parallels between the military and university life – leaders and followers, instructors and students, veterans and new recruits. Contributing to the SOS fund is one way O’Keeffe feels he can help keep the University moving forward as a cohesive unit in the right direction.

“Investing in the organization you belong to is key to its success,” says O’Keeffe. “Even if you have highly talented employees, if they’re not invested in some way, they’re probably not achieving their full potential. We should invest in the culture of the University and in the students themselves. We need to support our campus and make it the kind of place where everyone thrives. If you’re not willing to invest in the people you’re here to serve, you probably should be looking for another job.”

O’Keeffe doesn’t stipulate where his SOS contributions go, but admits he has great admiration for student athletes and First Nations students as well. He’s happy to let the University decide where his dollars would be best spent and takes satisfaction in the thought that the money he donates makes someone else’s University experience better.

“It’s just something I can do. I almost want to ask people, why wouldn’t you want to contribute? The amount doesn’t matter – what matters is that you give. Forego a couple of cups of coffee each month and give $5 if that’s all you can do. At the end of the year you’ll have donated $60. It probably won’t make much difference to you, but that money will make a difference to someone else.”

Join John and support our students today.