Campus remembers retired art director who guided many University publications
Connee L. McKinney, who worked on a variety of University of Delaware publications over more than 16 years, passed away on Jan. 29, 2023. She was 77.
In 1996, Ms. McKinney joined UD’s then-Publications Office as an editorial coordinator, becoming a communications project manager in 2008 and an art director in the Office of Communications and Marketing in 2012. While working at the University, she earned her master of arts in liberal studies. Throughout her tenure at UD, she was well-known for her organization, professionalism and ever-present smile. She retired in 2013.
Gail Armstrong, retired director of Publications, said “I count myself very fortunate to meet, hire and work alongside Connee in UD Publications for several years. She was a wonderful friend, coworker and a very talented publications project director. We easily bonded as we had both ‘come of age’ in the late '60s and had similar feelings about social issues. In 2008, I remember sharing a fierce hug and tears of joy with Connee, the morning after Barack Obama won the election. Connee was a person to look up to for her constant kindness and generosity. She was always willing to step in and help out whenever needed; no questions asked; no favors expected in return. I was really struck by the time she gave to support her family, her community, her friends and coworkers because she cared about them all and their wellbeing. Connee could also be fierce when she was motivated by compassion to change an unjust situation. She was a model ‘when in doubt, do the right thing’ human being. She will be fiercely missed.”
Don Shenkle, retired senior art director in the Office of Communications and Marketing, recalled, “My most indelible memory of Connee is the integrity she brought to her work and to her life. She had a steadfast compass and hewed to it in navigating her collaborations at UD. I also remember her consistently sunny outlook. She had a relentlessly positive attitude, even when the challenges of work were at their greatest. She brought an extraordinary level of thoughtfulness and organization to her work. Throughout her time there, she routinely logged more projects than any other editor and never seemed to break a sweat. All of these qualities were infectious. Without presuming, she became something of a mid-career mentor for me, and her lessons have stuck. Her office was adjacent to mine, and we collaborated closely on many projects, some quite involved. I remember with pleasure how she took a routine request for wall graphics from Joe Siebold [then director of Student Health Services] with a vague charge about diversity and dove headfirst into research, concepting a visual essay on underrepresented groups in the medical fields. We both learned a ton, and every time I saw Joe after that he kept talking about it. She was a bright light in the Publications Office.”
Daniel Wright, retired creative production manager in the Office of Communications and Marketing, called her “the ultimate professional,” adding, “One of the first things I thought about when I heard she had passed was that she was the model of integrity. I don’t ever recall seeing her upset or angry, and I don’t know of a single client or colleague with anything remotely resembling a negative comment about her. She was the gold standard for organization and record-keeping, something all of us in Publications and then in OCM tried to emulate (and mostly failed). Her work was thorough and meticulous, but she wasn’t above asking for help with a thorny technical problem if a project required it. I recall working with her on the Botanic Gardens annual plant sale catalog, trying to automate the process of converting text codes into visual symbols to accompany the plant descriptions. Working together, we successfully developed a series of style guides, which Connee also recorded in a detailed document still in use until just recently, when the sale catalog was moved fully online. A favorite remembrance -- since it happened more than one time -- Connee endured some good-natured ribbing for coming to work from her home in Arden on University holidays. She just overlooked the calendar and showed up at an empty office, a little perplexed I guess. But she took it all in stride, including the ‘necessary’ reminders to her from all of us when subsequent holidays rolled around.”
About Connee McKinney
Born in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, Ms. McKinney began working at the age of 13 as a waitress and chambermaid in her parents’ small family hotel. She owned her own graphics design business for 16 years and was an early practitioner of desktop publishing.
A resident of the historic Village of Arden, Delaware, for 53 years, Ms. McKinney played a major role in turning the former Arden School into the Buzz Ware Village Center. She helped organize and promote a long series of public service programs, special events, art exhibitions and concerts. She served for 11 years as one of three trustees of the Village of Arden, after being elected for life.
After she retired from UD, she researched, wrote and designed a book about the Arden School. The book was released in 2022, and she gave a presentation to the Arden Club Scholars’ Gild in front of many of the school's alumni.
She is survived by Russ, her husband of 55 years; her daughter Robin McKinney and her son-in-law Andrew Herman; grandson, Dominic; her sister Carol Touchton (Roy); niece Cory Redding (Chris) and her children (Rhyse, Nolan, and Emersyn); and nephew Ryan Touchton (Jill) and his children (Everett and Sylvie).
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m., Saturday, March 25, at The Gild Hall, 2126 The Highway, Arden, DE 19810. Donations in her memory may be made to ACRA.
To read her complete obituary or leave online condolences, visit Witzke Funeral Homes Inc.