Kennesaw State dean endows first-generation scholarship in memory of late father

KENNESAW, Ga. | Dec 7, 2022

Dean Katie Kaukinen said what she will remember most vividly about her childhood are the hours spent in the library at the school where her father, Gary Kaukinen, taught for 30 years, watching him prepare lessons for upcoming classes.

Gary Kaukinen, who passed away in April at age 79, was a devoted high school teacher at Port Arthur Collegiate Institute in Thunder Bay, Ontario, as well as a faculty coach for the school’s Reach for the Top Team — a competitive academic trivia club — and an active member of Epiphany Lutheran Church. He had a deep love for mentoring students and a particular passion for history, said Katie Kaukinen, dean of the Norman J. Radow College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Ivan Pulinkala, Katie Kaukinen, Lance Burchett

“My father absolutely adored history, both reading about it and teaching it. My dad worked to ensure that students understood that a knowledge of history could help them understand the events of the past and shape the future,” Kaukinen said. 

In memory of her father, Kaukinen on Monday committed $25,000 for scholarships set aside for first-generation students majoring in history education. Kaukinen said the Gary Kaukinen Memorial Scholarship will initially provide $1,000 per year, and the hope is that additional donors will add to that amount as years go on.

“He would be humbled — and maybe a little embarrassed — to have this scholarship named in his honor to support history education teachers of the future, but he would also be so proud,” Kaukinen said.

Endowed gifts like the one Kaukinen has provided are a boon for an already flourishing student body at KSU, said Lance Burchett, vice president for university advancement and CEO of the KSU Foundation

Burchett said scholarships provide educational opportunities for students who may not otherwise be able to afford college, and having the scholarship come from the dean of the college where it will be offered is especially meaningful.

“Students are the lifeblood of the university, and it is our job to support them however we can,” he said. “Dean Kaukinen has set an example with her generous gift that will make a difference for generations of students to come.”

Norman J. Radow, a KSU Foundation trustee, told the crowd of faculty, staff and students at Monday’s signing ceremony that, as a fellow historian, he wished he could have known Gary Kaukinen but said he could tell through Katie Kaukinen’s stories that he had influenced many lives.

“And now through this scholarship, he’s going to touch lives for generations to come,” Radow said. “Through this scholarship and everyone he’s touched, he will be immortal.”

– By Thomas Hartwell
Photos by Matt Yung

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit