Kathleen M. Happ, former Anne Arundel educator

Community college teacher, dean was also active in social issues

  • Kathleen Moragan Happ
Kathleen Moragan Happ (Handout, Baltimore Sun )
October 04, 2014|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | The Baltimore Sun

Kathleen M. Happ, a retired Anne Arundel Community College educator who ws an active member of Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church on Bolton Hill, died Sept. 19 of lung cancer at Villages Hospice in The Villages, Fla.

A former resident of the city's Lake Montebello neighborhood, Ms. Happ was 69.

"Kathy was a truly remarkable and exceedingly talented professional. She had integrity, was always positive and a professional in her field," said Martha A. "Marty" Smith, who headed the college from 1994 until 2012, when she retired. "She had it all."

The daughter of John Happ, a businessman, and Kittyfae Nuttall Happ, a teacher and a violinist, Kathleen Moragan Happ was born in Beaumont, Texas, and raised in San Antonio, where she graduated from high school.

After earning a bachelor's degree in philosophy in 1969 from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, she was recruited by the Social Security Administration in Woodlawn to learn computer programming, and helped write code for the original Medicare program.

Ms. Happ worked briefly as an indexer for the Alternative Press Center before becoming a full-time faculty member in 1979 at Anne Arundel Community College.

"She had quit Social Security and was eager to do something different," said Shirley Parry, a former professor of English and women's studies at the college.

"I suggested she think about teaching computer science at the community college level," Dr. Parry said. "She was a very thoughtful person, and I knew she was a natural teacher. She took to it like a duck to water, and the students loved her."

Ms. Happ rose to become department chair and then assistant dean of the college's computer engineering technology division.

In 1993, she earned a master's degree in administrative science from the Johns Hopkins University. Three years later, she completed Leadership Anne Arundel, a nine-month civic information and leadership development program.

The Annapolis/Anne Arundel County YWCA honored her in 1998 with its Tribute to Women in Industry Award, presented to women who have made significant contributions to their companies and communities.

In 1999, Ms. Happ was appointed dean of Anne Arundel Community College's School of Business, Computing and Technical Studies, a position she held until retiring in 2009. She also served as interim dean of the School of Health Professions, Wellness and Physical Education from 2002 to 2005.

"Kathy was heading two different schools at the same time and had the ability to relate to all kinds of people and bring them together," said Dr. Smith. "She just had innate leadership and management skills. Plus, she always had a 'can-do' attitude."

As dean, Ms. Happ helped design the college's $21.2 million Center for Applied Learning and Technology, which opened in 2005. She played an instrumental role in the development of the college's Homeland Security Management degree program.

"When we had problems, I'd turn to the college's vice president and say, 'Let's put Kathy's mind on this,' " said Dr. Smith. "And she could bring people together to accomplish goals."

"Her legacy lives on for the hundreds and hundreds of students who passed through college programs she helped develop for her department. That's quite an astounding legacy, and that's how it should be," she said.

"What she loved most about her life's work was mentoring students and faculty and the opportunity to make a difference in their lives," said her partner of 30 years, Laura Filipp, who retired as associate director of finance policy for the Maryland Higher Education Commission.

The couple were married last year in Towson. In 2010, they moved to The Villages.

Ms. Happ was a longtime member of Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church, where she had been an elder and was involved in the church's El Salvador mission and in peace and justice work.

In the mid-1980s, she played a leadership role in the process that led Brown Memorial to approve ordaining lesbians and gays, which at the time was a challenge to national church policy. She was active in the movement to use gender-inclusive language in all services.

"She really made a difference in so many ways in her church work," said Elden E. Schneider, who served with Ms. Happ on the Session.

He said Ms. Happ was active and fought for human rights, civil rights, transgender issues, gender issues, gay rights and sexual equality.

"She devoted herself to these issues. She was passionate about them, and acted on that passion. These were the many colors on her palette," he said. "She was just totally involved and a wonderful human being.

"She was fun-loving and had an excellent sense of humor. She loved politics, the Orioles and Ravens," Mr. Schneider said. "She's the kind of person you always want to be with."

"She loved life and lived it with gusto," said Dr. Parry. "She was a gourmet cook, an ardent sports fan, animal lover and an enthusiastic golfer."

Plans for a memorial service to be held in Florida are incomplete.

In addition to Ms. Filipp, she is survived by a sister, Patricia Briggs of The Villages; and several nieces and nephews.

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