Keiser University would like to pay homage to Ms. Evelyn C. Keiser—a trailblazer for women in science and education and co-founder of Keiser University in Fort Lauderdale—who passed away Feb. 5, 2024, in Pompano Beach, Florida, at 100 years old. In fond remembrance of her legacy, we explore her path from a young female scholar through her years as a teacher and institutional leader.

Early Life and Background

Evelyn’s journey blossomed from humble roots, but her aspirations were boundless.

Childhood and Family Origins

Born in 1924 as the third child among four siblings, Evelyn Keiser spent her formative years in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, amid the challenges of the Great Depression. Financial constraints loomed large, so her father had earmarked college and medical school solely to the male members of the family. Nonetheless, she defied the odds and pursued her education anyhow.

Educational Pursuits and Achievements

Years before founding a university (in the 1940s), Evelyn sought to study science, later went on start her own laboratory, and embarked on a teaching career.

“She thought she could, so she did,” her son Jeffrey Keiser recounted to the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “She did and did and did.”

Academic Path and Educational Accomplishments

Graduating top of her class at the Philadelphia High School for Girls, Evelyn secured a full scholarship to Temple University in Philadelphia and completed her bachelor’s degree in medical technology. Despite marrying at the age of 19 and facing discouragement due to gender expectations, she persisted in her studies. Later on, Evelyn earned a master’s degree from Florida International University.

Career Beginnings and Early Professional Experiences

In 1946 following World War II, Evelyn Keiser established her own medical laboratory where, among various services, she conducted pregnancy tests for women for a nominal fee of $4. Given the limitations of technology at the time, Evelyn used rabbits for this testing by making injections then examining their ovaries surgically to determine pregnancy.

Upon the lab’s inception, it was excluded from the national registry due to the rarity of women owning such facilities. However, following the initiation of Keiser University’s lab tech program years later, the university made efforts to rectify this by corresponding with the regulatory organization overseeing the registry—resulting in its reinstatement. What Evelyn earned from her success at the lab she put toward her then-husband’s medical school costs.

By 1959, she had begun teaching laboratory sciences at the Franklin School of Science and Arts in Philadelphia while balancing the responsibilities of being a supportive spouse, raising three children, and even hosting guests for her delectable dinner dishes on occasion. This often entailed integrating her professional pursuits with motherhood, including bringing her children to the laboratory from time to time.

Eventually, however, Evelyn’s marriage came to an end. In 1961, she relocated to assume the position of medical director at Charon Williams College in Hollywood, Florida.

Founding of Keiser University

With money from the divorce settlement plus support from her family, Evelyn decided to lay the foundation of what would become Keiser University (initially known as the Keiser School) alongside her co-founder and son Arthur Keiser, who was a graduate student at the time.

Things didn’t get off to the smoothest start; the mother-son duo faced no shortage of obstacles and hardships, having minimal prior experience to draw from when it came to operating a school. Expanding from a modest, 2,400-square-foot storefront that comprised five staff members and a single student, the school later transitioned to being a career college and, finally, a full university.

After the school’s official founding in 1977, Evelyn served as an instructor, chief academic officer, and program director throughout more than four decades.

Vision and Mission of Keiser University

With an innate understanding of the pivotal role education plays in shaping lives, Ms. Evelyn Keiser embarked on a mission to redefine the landscape of learning. Alongside Arthur, she worked tirelessly to establish an institution that would prioritize student-centric education, career-focused curriculum, and cutting-edge technology. As co-founders, their strong shared vision was to create a school that not only provided academic excellence but also fostered personal and professional growth. They recognized the importance of equipping students with practical skills and knowledge that would empower them to thrive in their chosen fields.

The Founding Principles and Values of Keiser University

Emphasizing punctuality and strict dress codes, the institution embodied a philosophy revolving around structure. Beyond this, Evelyn’s transformative work and lasting legacy leads and inspires the spirit of Keiser University to this day: values that center students, educational excellence, and community service and engagement.

Leadership and Impact on Keiser University

In addition to her role as co-founder, Evelyn was known for her compassionate leadership style, unwavering integrity, and genuine concern for the well-being of students, faculty, and staff. Her approachable demeanor and genuine interest in the success of others endeared her to the Keiser University community and beyond.

Under her relentless pursuit of excellence and influential leadership, Evelyn helped the university flourish and reach new heights. Today, Keiser University is one of the largest privately-owned universities in Florida with a prominent presence in the national higher education landscape.

Role as a Leader and Innovator

An indomitable force in the realm of education, Evelyn Keiser stands as a testament to the transformative power of dedication, innovation, and firm commitment to students’ success. Born with a visionary spirit and a passion for learning, she helped birth a beacon of excellence in higher education.

Impact on Education: Students, Faculty, and Staff

In the university’s beginning days, Keiser’s first and only student, Terry Schmidt, was skeptical of the school’s legitimacy. Ultimately, though, she stuck it out and graduated with a nursing degree—thanks to her deep fondness of Ms. Evelyn Keiser’s teaching style and clear passion for education. In fact, a significant portion of her students have pursued careers in the medical field across South Florida.

Made apparent by her consistent routine and early arrival to campus every single day, Evelyn’s dedication as an educator was undeniable. Students recognized her as a demanding instructor, yet one who held a profound concern for their success. The prevailing belief was that if one could thrive in her classroom, they could excel in any endeavor.

Important Work and Legacy in Education

At present, Keiser University boasts an annual enrollment exceeding 20,000 students and spanning 20 campuses throughout Florida and abroad. Academic offerings encompass a wide range of disciplines, featuring both undergraduate and graduate programs.

Philanthropic Initiatives, Charitable Endeavors, and Community Engagement

Evelyn’s influence extended far beyond the confines of the university walls. She was an advocate for education accessibility and affordability, working to break down barriers to higher learning for students from diverse backgrounds. Her philanthropic endeavors supported scholarships, initiatives, and programs aimed at empowering individuals to pursue their educational aspirations.

H2: Honors, Recognition, Awards, and Accolades Received by Ms. Evelyn Keiser

  • In 2004, Evelyn Keiser received an honorary doctorate degree from Beijing University.
  • In 2010, the Board of Directors of American Medical Technologists (AMT) presented both Evelyn Keiser and Arthur Keiser, Ph.D., a National Special Recognition award in recognition of their numerous contributions to healthcare and the medical technologist profession.
  • In 2015, Evelyn was formally inducted by the Florida Commission on the Status of Women and into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame in honor of her notable impact on the lives of both women and Florida citizens at large.
  • Acknowledging her dedication to impactful teaching, Keiser University named its most esteemed faculty accolade, the Evelyn C. Keiser Teaching Excellence Award, in her honor. This distinction celebrates educators who demonstrate exceptional prowess in proactive teaching methodologies and achieve remarkable student learning outcomes—all qualities Evelyn ardently championed throughout her career.

Reflecting on Ms. Evelyn Keiser’s Life and Legacy

In the span of her illustrious career, Ms. Evelyn C. Keiser remained steadfast in her commitment to excellence, innovation, and student success. Remarkably, she was actively teaching until the age of 90, transitioning thereafter to an advisory role until age 94. Evelyn’s enduring legacy continues to inspire generations of educators, leaders, and learners to strive for greatness and make a meaningful difference in the world of education.

If you would like to help keep her compelling legacy alive, please consider generously making a donation (if able) to Keiser University or the Evelyn C. Keiser Scholarship fund. Your gift is put toward our mission of helping students achieve their educational and career goals.