Undaunted: A Tribute to Kathy Hyer

The GSA family begins 2021 mourning the loss of our friend, colleague, role model, and Board Chair Kathryn Hyer, MPP, PhD, FGSA, FAGHE.

Many of you had the opportunity to work with Kathy over her more than 30 years of active involvement in GSA. Kathy served as AGHE treasurer, SRPP Section chair, and member of the GSA Executive Committee. And she had the distinction of serving as the first GSA president under the Society’s new governance model.

Kathy also had the noted distinction of successfully leading GSA through perhaps the most fraught period in its 75-year history.GSA presidents are often called upon to handle the unexpected, such as a hotel strike or budget crisis. But fewpresidents have been called upon to provide the determined, sustained, unflinching leadership that Kathy demonstrated in 2020.

Kathy’s calm, “let’s get this done” approach enabled GSA to respond meaningfully to the unprecedented events of 2020 and transform the GSA Annual Scientific Meeting from an in-person event to its first-ever all-online format. And, along the way, she energized the Society’s celebration of its 75thanniversary milestone (19452020).

I worked closely with Kathy on an almost daily basis throughout the year. Of her many contributions to the field last year, I believe she was most passionate about the activities of the GSA Diversity & Justice Working Group and COVID-19 Task Force. Kathy was the driving force behind the establishment of these two expert panels.As events unfolded in 2020, Kathy saw the opportunity for GSA’smultidisciplinary membership to supportresearchers, clinicians, educators, and other aging field professionals as they wrestled with the pandemic and systemic racism. Both groups continue to be actively engaged in advancing the Society’s work on these issues.

Even as Kathy experienced declining health, she provided constant encouragement to her peers, board colleagues, the GSA staff, and me personallyKathy was undaunted in the face of extraordinary professional and personal challenges. She was always focused on how she could help others and how GSA could help its members.

I have the deepest admiration for the courage, tenacity, and commitment she demonstrated everyday.Just as Kathy inspired generations of emerging scholars, she has been an inspiration to the GSA team.  

Finally, she was filled with enormous gratitude for all that GSA members do to make the Society successful. She was members’ biggest fan and undaunted in the face of adversity.

For those interested in sharing a remembrance of Kathy with her family, you can email her husband of 39 years, Jim Soley, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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