USAO community mourns passing of alumna, educator
Known for her lifelong devotion to teaching and preserving the Kiowa language, author and educator Alecia Keahbone Gonzales, a great friend and longtime employee of the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, died on April 22.
Born in Ft. Cobb, the Kiowa-Apache author and teacher was named the Apache Tribal Princess as a young girl. In the 1950s, Gonzales presented "The Lord's Prayer" in Indian sign language on the first color television broadcast of "The Dave Garraway and Arlene Francis Show." In 1962, President John F. Kennedy presented her with a Lifesaving award. She graduated from the Oklahoma College for Women with a bachelor of arts degree in 1964, then obtained her master of arts degree at Southwestern State College in 1974. She received a second master’s degree in speech pathology from the University of Oklahoma and pursued further post-graduate studies at Arizona State and Utah State universities.
Gonzales had worked a speech pathologist, a dean of student services, a guidance counselor and an educator. She was a member of various groups, such as the Oklahoma Federation of Indian Women, the National Education Association, the Caddo County Education Association, and she was the 1993-94 recipient of the Indian Woman of the Year award.
Upon returning to USAO as an instructor, Gonzales worked extensively with student organizations and was highly valued as a speaker on a variety of topics related to community service, cultural preservation and the role of women in education.
In 2001, Gonzales, in conjunction with the USAO Foundation, published Thaun Khoiye Tdoen Gyah: Beginning Kiowa Language, the first Kiowa language textbook to be certified for use in the Oklahoma school system. Last fall, Gonzales recorded a 12-hour video companion series to the textbook. The series is slated for release later this year.
In recent years, Gonzales had taken legendary Kiowa folk songs and gave them life through children’s storybooks. Printed by USAO, these bilingual children’s books include “Little Red Buffalo Song,” “A Mother Bird’s Song,” and “Grandma Spider’s Song,” among others.
In recognition of her many achievements as both an alumna and an educator, Gonzales was inducted into the USAO Alumni Hall of Fame in 2005.
USAO President Dr. John Feaver observed Gonzales’ passing with profound sadness, noting that, “Alecia Gonzales’ life embodied every value we hope to pass on to our students today—an ambitious studiousness, an unwavering commitment to community and, above all, a kind and generous heart. She will be sorely missed.”
Services were held April 26 at the Anadarko High School auditorium. Gonzales will be interred in the Fort Cobb Cemetery.