By Michael Reisig –
Keese is originally from Newark, N.J., where she was born and raised. She graduated from high school in 1968 and went on to become a Vista Volunteer, attending Rutger University. She later relocated to California State University in Long Beach, receiving a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education, and from there she received her teaching credentials at Pepperdine University. She went on to get her Masters in Education at Azusa Pacific University and started teaching in 1976.
“I taught for nine years, but eventually became disenchanted with education and wanted something different, so I got into the marketing end of the medical field,” Keese recalled. “During that time I met my husband, Dr. Hector Costamagna. After getting married I became an administrator for the surgical process. It was about that time that a friend of mine contacted me about a house she was selling in Big Fork, Ark. I asked if there was hunting and fishing in that area, because Hector likes those things, and my friend said emphatically, ‘yes.’ So in January of 2003 we came out for a visit, and we liked the place so much we bought it.
“In the process we became friends with Joe and Betty Hardegree, and they mentioned that a nursing program was being established at Mena Regional Health System, and they were looking for someone to teach Physiology. Hector had just retired but was looking for something to do, so he became the instructor.”
Keese explained that, in addition, she discovered there was a position open at Rich Mountain Community College for director of instructional initiative. She applied for and got that job.
“Over time I changed positions in the college, and currently I serve as director for Lifelong Learning and Program Development, which keeps me very busy,” she added. “I match human resources and the physical resources of the community to provide programming that the community can benefit from. I also work with the organization ARCO, a program designed to create a vibrant, sustainable community – it’s a broad-based imitative to engage leaders and citizens in Montgomery, Polk, and Scott counties to create economic opportunities, enhance our quality of life, and preserve our natural environment.”
Keese added that the college is in a very exciting time now with its renovation process, which will allow it to increase its programs and offer more to the community.
“I personally value my relation ship with RMCC President Phillip Wilson, who has given me a lot of latitude in program development and is very supportive of my efforts with the college,” she explained. “My colleagues here are incredible people who work tirelessly for the community in so many fashions that largely go unseen, and they are the heart of the college’s success.”
On a more personal note, Keese and her husband are expecting their fifth grandchild, and they enjoy traveling and still spend time exploring life, but they like coming home to Mena.
“It was an adjustment coming here from the big city,” she added. “Nonetheless, I have always been myself. I haven’t changed – what you see is what you get. I miss my family, but this is such a beautiful place. I love my job and we just love it here. It was such a good choice for us.”