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Passing of an Agricultural Education Giant

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Education, Communications and Leadership Emeritus professor Dr. Jim Key. 


“Our colleague and friend, Dr. Jim Key passed away on Monday, Sept. 13,” said Dr. Rob Terry, OSU AECL department head. “Dr. Key served our department for more than 50 years and influenced thousands of people as a masterful teacher, trusted adviser, and respected scholar. He was a respected leader in his professional discipline, produced more than 170 publications, and was recognized with numerous prestigious awards and honors. Dr. Key was a pioneer of distance education. Since the early 1970s, he taught research methods using delivery platforms ranging from satellite TV to the latest web-based technologies. As you read his obituary below, you will see Dr. Key’s life was defined by a passion for service and commitment to his faith.” 


Dr. Key was known to the agricultural education discipline as a giant that aided in the molding of the agricultural education profession.


“Jim Key was a giant in our profession,” said George Wardlow, University of Arkansas Agricultural Education, Communications and Technology department chair. “As a young high school teacher, I was strongly and positively influenced by Dr. Key through his term as editor of The AgEd Magazine. His messages and his selection of articles for the magazine were among the best in the history of that publication. When I became a graduate student and began attending national professional meetings I was, again, extremely impressed when Dr. Key introduced himself to me.  He offered to assist me in any way that he could. I never forgot that kindness shown to a new grad student and, subsequently, to a young faculty member.  Throughout the years I visited with him every time that I got the chance. I will miss the wry observations and sage advice of this giant.”


Dr. Key’s obituary is as follows:


James Perry Key, 85, died on September 13, 2021, after being diagnosed with light chain amyloidosis. A celebration of life will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, October 9, 2021, at Highland Park United Methodist Church, 524 North Stallard Drive, Stillwater.


Jim was born to John Otis and Ruth Alexander Key on April 25, 1936, in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. He attended E.W. Grove High School and received his B.S. in Agricultural Education from the University of Tennessee. After graduation, Jim served in the U.S. Air Force as a transport pilot and squadron training officer. He later received his M.Ed. in Vocational Education from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and Ed.D. in Occupational Education from North Carolina State University. He came to Oklahoma State University as an Assistant Professor in September 1969. Although he retired in 1998, Jim continued to teach a research design class for masters and doctoral students through Spring 2021.


Jim was in the Air National Guard for over twenty years. His impact is wide-reaching having served in Kairos Prison Ministry since 1994 and as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) since 1999. He served on the Board of Directors at the Wesley Foundation Student Center at OSU for over 25 years and in various positions at Highland Park United Methodist Church for over 50 years. Most recently, he cherished his role of picking up food from local stores and delivering items to Our Daily Bread.


Jim’s heart was for people and he was a light to all who knew him. Whether opening up his home to international students for holiday celebrations or introducing young families to pony rides, you would often find others at the family’s table on their acreage outside Stillwater.


In addition to his parents, Jim was preceded in death by his two brothers, Jesse Alexander Key and John Miller Key. Jim is survived by his wife of 59 years, Jean Rose Key; daughter, Cindy Jenkins, and husband, David of Goodwell, Oklahoma; son, Jim and wife, Karen of Marietta, Georgia; four grandchildren including Will Jenkins and wife, Rachel of Tulsa, Oklahoma; Sarah Jenkins Fischer and husband, Braden of Hooker, Oklahoma; Elizabeth Key of Houston, Texas; Laura Key of College Station, Texas; three brothers-in-law, four sisters-in-law, and numerous nieces and nephews.


To honor the many medical professionals who cared for Jim and continue to assist Jean in her rehabilitation, the family requests masks be worn by those attending the service.


In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the charity of your choice or Our Daily Bread Food and Resource Center, 701 E. 12th Street, Stillwater, OK.


For more information regarding funeral services, click here.

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