Carnegie Mellon University
January 11, 2023

Remembering Claudia A. Kirkpatrick

Claudia A. Kirkpatrick, Carnegie Mellon University alumna and former Tepper School of Business faculty member, passed away on Dec. 26, 2022, at the age of 79.

Dr. Kirkpatrick was deeply devoted to Carnegie Mellon’s and the Tepper School’s educational mission. She served throughout the university and at the Tepper School on major education development initiatives. She advocated for excellence in undergraduate programming and spearheaded the drive at the Tepper School to create an undergraduate business communications curriculum at a time when most business schools relied on English departments to teach general writing skills. She mentored junior faculty and Ph.D. students in their teaching and was known campus-wide as a supportive and tireless colleague.

More than anything, Dr. Kirkpatrick was devoted to the undergraduate students. She cared deeply that they not only received the best education possible but also the guidance to grow into independent, productive, and happy adult members of society. As one example of her impact, in 2000, she co-founded the Tepper School’s annual undergraduate case competition that remains today an outstanding co-curricular showcase for students’ strategic thinking, problem-solving, and creativity. She remained in close contact as a mentor and advocate for dozens of undergraduate alumni. She was honored with the Carnegie Mellon University Academic Advising award, 1996-1997 and the Tepper School Bachelor of Science in Business Administration Program Sustained Teaching Excellence Award in 2007.

Dr. Kirkpatrick received her Doctor of Arts from Carnegie Mellon University and earned earlier degrees from Smith College and Boston University. She held several positions at Carnegie Mellon including Staff Writer in the university’s Development Office followed by a long career at GSIA and the Tepper School where she served as Publications Director, Academic Advisor, and Associate Teaching Professor of Management Communications until her retirement and subsequent emerita rank in 2009. Her teaching and research interests included developmental issues in teaching business communication; organizational contexts for written and oral communications; and intellectual and ethical issues.

“In 1992, Claudia invited me to her office one day to talk about the work I’d been doing with business students at Pitt,” said Evelyn Pierce, Teaching Professor Emerita in Business Management Communications. “We talked for over two hours in that first meeting — the beginning of a 30-year friendship during which I witnessed first-hand her steadfastness and support for so many people. Knowing Claudia has been a privilege and a precious gift. Her passion for students, her colleagues, her family, her furry friends, and our planet remains an inspiration.”

“Claudia was a tremendously dedicated teacher— totally devoted to her undergraduate Business Communication students at the Tepper School,” said Richard Young, Teaching Professor Emeritus in Business Management Communications. “She spent many long hours advising them not only about their communication skills but also about their personal well-being. She was a dear friend and supportive colleague. She will be missed."

“Claudia was an enthusiastic and tireless educator with a powerful vision of the role of education in the lives of her students,” said Duane Seppi, the David M. and Barbara A. Kirr Professor of Finance and Senior Associate Dean, Faculty. “Her contributions to the Tepper School community also extended outside of the classroom. For example, she was an active volunteer mentor in the school’s ‘I Have A Dream initiative’.”

Dr. Kirkpatrick was dedicated to and involved in her Orpwood St. neighborhood in Oakland. She was also active in many organizations, including The Sierra Club, the East End Cooperative Ministries, Third Presbyterian Church, and WQED-FM. Just as she often welcomed students who were unable to travel over holidays into her home, her caring nature extended to four-legged loved ones — her horses, Newfoundlands, and cats.

Dr. Kirkpatrick is survived by her sister Roberta Atkins, niece Ronda DeVries, great-niece Sarah DeVries, great-nephew Nathan DeVries, and many more family and friends throughout Pittsburgh and Michigan. She is preceded in death by her beloved husband “Sweenie” — Jim Sweenie, known to many in Pittsburgh as a longtime WQED radio personality — and her nephew Stephen DeVries.

Claudia was a caring light in many people’s lives and her presence will be missed.