Dr. Keith Dils, the new Dean of the College of Education, was 12 years old when his mother died from aplastic anemia, a disease where bone marrow stops making blood cells.
“You know?” Dils said. “We have such a short period of time on this earth.”
Dils said that the doctors did a lot of experimentation with medication on his mother, Helen Dils.
“She was a fighter,” Dils said. “She gave all she had.”
Dils was the oldest son and helped the family. He fathered his siblings and was a leader who was relied upon. Despite the time of mourning, Dils never missed a day of school during that time.
Throughout Dils’s childhood, his father, Arthur, raised all three children. Because of this, Dils and his siblings grew closer to their father. Dils’ father is an attorney and wasn’t at home sometimes. Dils would let him know if there was an emergency. Dils’ father would help him find a balance between football and education.
“We were just tight, and I’m interested in what he is doing,” Dils said. “I’m extremely proud of him. He was always working toward this goal of becoming a good teacher.”
Academic Affairs hosted a reception on Thursday to formally welcome Keith Dils in the Pennsylvania Room in North Hall from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Professionals met and greeted Dils while helping themselves to the food and refreshments.
“The most influential person in my life is my father,” Dils said. “He’s taught me to live by my actions and to love my friends and to love my career.”
Dils’ father didn’t remarry until all of them were grown-ups. He never retired, and is an attorney at 77 years old. Dils’ brother, Glen Dils, also worked hard, and his sister, Amy Shomper, became a nurse in Harrisburg.
Dils’ working experience revolved around the Pa. area. He taught eighth grade civics and Pa. history in Wellsboro. He was the head football coach.
Then, he taught at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre. He was a teacher of education, chair of department, accreditation coordinator and head of the division.
“While I love teaching, I felt a calling to education because of the tasks,” Dils said. “I felt an accomplishment where I can work to grow and strive for excellence.”
Dils was IUP’s associate dean for over three years. Then, he was asked to be the interim dean. Dils had several job offers at the time. He thought the dean at the time would be a good mentor for him.
Susan Hannam, the former Dean of Health, Environment, and Science, led the search committee.
Dils is married and has three children.
“For the five of us, we saw that it was a package deal to live in Butler County,” Dils said. “The community was sound. People are warm and welcoming here.”
Heather Dils started working for the Pittsburgh Parent Magazine.
“I’ve always been supportive of him,” She said. “I’ve been through the years with him working at different jobs. I’ve told him that I’ll move wherever he works.”
She stayed at home and raised their three children.
“He’s been there for them too,” She said. “I’m there so he can pursue his interests.”
Dils had several options to go somewhere else.
“After two months, I can see that people are hard-working and there’s a tight community,” Dils said. “It’s very student-centered.”
So far, Dils met about 50 percent of the faculty. They are invited to come and meet him. It helps him to figure out where the school is and how they are driven by accreditation.
In the making, NCATE accreditation officials are planning to require students and teachers to use Taskstream, which is an online service where students can demonstrate how they’ve met the standards. Faculty gives feedback, and students can take surveys. Dils said that eventually all teacher candidates need to demonstrate their performance. After students graduate, employers will ask what classes students took. The survey will ask teachers how they’ve impacted the students. Students can showcase this to employers. Dils said that overall, this system is to maintain quality education.
“Having faith and being spiritual can help you through events,” Dils said. “I’ve been through mourning, healing and then moved on. By looking at all of what the people are going through, you develop empathy and an understanding so you can understand where people are coming from.