WELLSBURG - A long-time member of the Brooke County Board of Education whose involvement in public schools extended beyond the county is remembered for his care for students and teachers alike.
Keith Donley, a member of the Brooke County school for 24 years who served the last 14 years as a field representative for state Treasurer John Perdue, died March 11 at the age of 74 at Liza's Place, a Valley Hospice facility.
Perdue said, "I am extremely saddened by the passing of my long-time friend and confidant Keith Donley. I hired Keith as my first field representative, and he spent the past 14 years working diligently to promote the many programs and functions of the treasurer's office in the Northern Panhandle."
Perdue said that in addition to helping to return thousands of dollars in unclaimed property to hundreds of West Virginians, Donley encouraged West Virginia children to further their educations at the college level through his promotion of the state's SMART529 college savings program.
Perdue added Donley also helped to educate students about the value of saving money themselves through the state Treasurer's Bank at School program.
"The void Keith leaves in my heart is large, but I find comfort in knowing he is working with all of us from a better place now," Perdue said.
Brooke County school board president Jim Piccirillo, who led the board in observing a moment of silence for Donley during the March 14 meeting, noted Donley had stepped down from the board when he was elected to it.
But Piccirillo said he came to know Donley through his involvement in the Bank at School program, which was initiated at Weirton Heights Elementary School, where Piccirillo was principal, and other schools.
Piccirillo said it was clear that Donley "really enjoyed being in the classroom with children."
A graduate of Wellsburg High School, Donley earned a degree in business and finance from the former Wheeling College of Commerce. But he gravitated toward education in many areas.
In addition to his stint on the Brooke County school board, where he served as president and vice president, each for six years, he served as president and in other offices for the West Virginia School Board Association.
A member of the National School Board Association's Southern Association for nine years, he was a delegate to the association's national convention for seven years.
A past president and member of the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission's board of directors, Donley played a key role in keeping the Super Six football playoffs in Wheeling at a time when Charleston officials were courting the games, noted Bill Harvey.
But Harvey, who served with Donley as both a Brooke County Schools superintendent and a fellow board member, said he'll remember Donley for his support of local teachers during a 1990 strike.
While some area school officials considered whether the work stoppage brought an opportunity to cut staff, Donley hoped for Brooke County teachers' speedy return to their classrooms, he said.
Harvey said Donley's foremost concern always "was what good for the kids."
He added as board president, Donley believed in allowing everyone to speak his peace.
Former Brooke school board member Richard Pannett said many didn't see the compassionate nature in which he presided over expulsion hearings held by the board.
While the board had the difficult task of determining if a student's actions merited his being expelled from school, Donley often expressed concern that whatever the outcome, the student would find some success in his future, Pannett recalled.
"He taught me a lot about being on the board," Pannett said, adding, "He was the ultimate professional always."
Donley is survived by his wife of 55 years, Judy; a son, John of Hamburg, N.Y.; daughter, Janis of Wellsburg; two grandsons; and many other family members.
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