Dr. Owen Kulemeka has died

Owen KulemekaUPDATE: Funeral Services will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday, July 10, 2015, at St. Camillus Catholic Church in Silver Spring, Maryland with burial to follow. A visitation will be held at the Francis J. Collins Funeral Home in Silver Spring on Thursday, July 9 from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. Gaylord College will hold a memorial service on the OU campus early in the fall semester.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial gifts be made to the Owen Kulemeka Memorial Scholarship fund in Gaylord College at the University of Oklahoma.  Checks should be made payable to the University of Oklahoma Foundation, P.O. Box 258856, Oklahoma City, OK 73125-8856.

A special Facebook page, Remembering Owen, has been created to collect memories and photos of Owen. Please post your thoughts here: https://www.facebook.com/rememberingowen


It is with deep sadness that we must share with you the news that we have lost one of our Gaylord family. Dr. Owen Kulemeka, public relations assistant professor, passed away unexpectedly over the weekend, believed to have been from complications from heat stroke.

Friends and colleagues began to worry about him when he had not been seen for several days and had not posted or commented on Facebook as was his custom. When multiple calls went unanswered, Professor Jaime Loke and Gaylord Director of Finance Heather Todd went to check on him at his apartment where he was found the morning of June 30.

Owen was originally from Malawi, Africa, but received his bachelor and master’s degrees from the University of Maryland at College Park and his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. His father, mother and two sisters live in the Washington, D.C. area.

Owen was such a wonderful friend, colleague and mentor. His infectious smile and wonderful heart will be sorely missed in Gaylord. We know this news is difficult for everyone but want you to know that there are counselors available through Goddard Health Services at 405-325-2911. We will update here and on social media when plans are in place for services.

A special Facebook page, Remembering Owen, has been created to collect memories and photos of Owen. Please post your thoughts here: https://www.facebook.com/rememberingowen


  1. William E. Berry

    Most unsettling news. Although Owen no longer is with us I count the blessings of having had the opportunity to work closely with him during his time at Illinois when he was a PhD student and I was his adviser. He brought great energy and inspiration to the classroom in 2008 when he was my TA in a public relations seminar, such that students literally would line up and wait for 90 – 120 minutes or however long it took to meet with Owen to discuss their performance one-on-one. Scores of undergraduates would be listening to I-Pods or scrolling on their Macs as they sat on the floor in the basement of Gregory Hall awaiting their turn with Owen. He gave full measure to everything — as a teacher, student, scholar and all around pleasant person. I especially appreciated his low tolerance and sometimes impatience concerning anything that was just “adequate” because he consistently aimed high and expected a similar level of exceptional productivity from others. Owen exemplifies the proposition that it is not how long one resides on the planet that matters but what great things one does while here.

    • Doc Hughes

      Wonderful tribute to Dr Owen Kulemeka. Having two degrees from OU–BS, PhD–one of his students wrote a beautiful tribute to him on FB. She happens to be a beautiful, talented, & extremely hard-working daughter of a friend of mine. Thank you for inspiring him to inspire her and others like her, and for sharing in the Sooner tradition of Excellence in all we do in life…be it in the Academy or beyond. RIP, Dr!

  2. Ivy Glennon

    He was a good man, a smart man with an easy smile and kind heart. I am so sorry to hear of his loss so young.

  3. Kathleen Johnson

    Owen was a colleague at Gaylord College. He had the ability to make everyone feel special. He was beloved by both students and colleagues. He will be greatly missed.

  4. Zain Arshad

    I find no words to explain his kindness. He was the most kindhearted person on the Earth. Will miss our conversations Prof!!

    His student from Pakistan

  5. Tanya M.

    My daughter, Jardin was in one of Dr. Kulrmeka’s classes this summer. She always talked about how helpful he was. She is inconsolable and heart broken by his passing.

  6. Ashley Robinson

    If there was ever someone to mourn over, it is Owen. As a former student of his, the first course I took with him was all it took. I scheduled the rest of my college career around making sure I was in two more of his classes before graduating. That alone should tell you how extraordinary he was, as a person and as a teacher. He was genuine. He was incredibly intelligent, and he bucked the norm on a daily basis- I even kept in touch after graduation because he took up a genuine interest in my success. I don’t know what to say. I will be awaiting an announcement of a memorial service!

  7. Ray Chavez

    So shocked to hear of his passing. Owen was more than a former colleague at OU – he quickly became a trusted friend. He had the kind of personality that made you feel as if you had known him for a long time. He often poked his head in my OU office, offered a genuine good morning, and asked how I was doing. Our conversation over diversity related issues were invaluable. Pitani bwino, my dear friend. May The Creator bless you.

  8. Claudio Moreira

    Owen was a great scholar but a much better human being. I lack words to express what a loss this is…I will miss Owen greatly. From our time in Champaign-Urbana, it was clear to me that Dr.Kulemeka already was a great public intellectual. Much love and prayers my dearest friend.
    His mentor Dr. Berry said it better: “Owen exemplifies the proposition that it is not how long one resides on the planet that matters but what great things one does while here.”

  9. Limbani Lewis Makina

    RIP DR. KULEMEKA even though I did not know you until today but I only think its ryt to bid farewell thru this means

  10. Edward Mponda

    He was my college and class mate in Malawi, Africa. Soft spoken, focused and methodical – I knew he was going places. This is a big loss to humanity

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