KATHERINE VAIL (“Kay”) (1924-2007 )
GSSW Professor (1969-1989)
Acting Dean (1985-1987), 6th Head of GSSW
Emeritus Professor (1989)
“Kay Vail is an organizer. She organizes organizations and people in the organizations.”
The Denver Post, March 19, 1973
Kay Vail was born in Topeka, Kansas, but grew up in a small town in Texas where her father owned a cotton gin. In high school, she was “double promoted,” graduating at age 16. She graduated from Baker University (Kansas) in 1945. She was not able to study music, because that department had been eliminated because of WW II, so she majored in physical education. For the next 15 years, she worked for the Girl Scouts in Topeka. “They were looking for people who were particularly interested in camping, and that was my specialty.”
Vail completed her MSW at DU in 1955, specializing in group work. She then worked for the Girls Scouts for two years in Portland, OR. Vail’s love of the outdoors brought her back to Colorado in 1959, where she worked part time on a dude ranch while also serving as the Executive Director of the Colorado White House Conference on Children and Youth. From 1960-66, she was the Coordinator of Special Services for the Metropolitan Council for Community Services in Denver.
Her teaching career at GSSW began in 1967 as a field instructor and course instructor in group work. In1969, she joined the faculty full time, teaching a wide range of courses, including the practice of social work, group work, social policy and administration, management and staff development, integrated practice, and group research. Vail also took on many administrative tasks involving the internal functions of the school. She was in charge of the Continuing Education programs, and established the Satellite Education Program in Pueblo, extending MSW education to an underserved area of the state. As Associate Dean (1983-1985) and then Acting Dean (1985-1987), she put GSSW’s financial affairs back in order, led the faculty in reevaluating and revising the curriculum, and developed the Information Technology Center, bringing GSSW into the computer age. She served on many University committees as well as numerous community boards and organizations. In retirement, she continued her work on various human service projects in Park County, CO, and also in Mexico, where she spends the winter.
Kay Vail passed away in an Aurora nursing home on April 20, 2007, after a long illness. She was 82 and was preceded in death by her husband, Richard. Kay is survived by two step-children, Richard and Pat of Aurora, former daughter-in-law (called “daughter” by Kay), Helene Burns of Bailey, ten step-grandchildren, and three nephews and a niece. Kay will also be missed and remembered by her many friends and associates in Park County. Funeral services were private (http://www.theflume.com/obituaries/article_2b42f2ba-94cc-5779-a311-4bb997baeac9.html)
Kay is still supporting education in the community. In her will, she bequeathed generous annuities to the Park County Library and the Park County Education Foundation. (http://www.theflume.com/obituaries/article_2b42f2ba-94cc-5779-a311-4bb997baeac9.html)
The Platte Canyon community, Park County, and the many people Kay worked to help are grateful for her commitment and her very active life here. (http://www.theflume.com/obituaries/article_2b42f2ba-94cc-5779-a311-4bb997baeac9.html)