UO mourns loss of IT expert Leué

Leué is well-known in IT circles and across campus (photo: Evan Kaufman)
Leué is well-known in IT circles and across campus (photo: Evan Kaufman)

The University of Oregon is grieving the loss of a woman of tireless energy and enthusiasm with the unexpected death June 18 of Cathleen Leué, director of information technology for the College of Arts and Sciences. She was 56.

There will be a public celebration of her life at 1 p.m. Saturday, June 22, at Musgrove Funeral Home, 1152 Olive St., Eugene.

As an associate economics professor and the founder of CASIT and the Social Science Instructional Labs, Leué is well-known in IT circles and across campus. But she was a mother and partner first, placing family at the top of her list of priorities, friends and colleagues said.

Economics professor Mark Thoma, Leué’s longtime companion and partner in raising sons Derrick and Paul, called her passing “the saddest news” and said he will miss her terribly.

Garron Hale, CASIT associate director, said the department is in shock. “She’s meant quite a lot,” Hale said. “She was really driven, focused, very concerned about the university and the betterment of it.”

Born in Chincoteague, Va., Leué spent her childhood on Navy bases throughout the United States. She majored in economics at California State-Chico and graduated with honors in 1978; she earned a Ph.D. in economics from Washington State University in 1985.

At the UO, Leué was upbeat and quick to smile, “an energetic little sprite with Irish spirit,” friends and colleagues said.

She helped move the university to the forefront of online education and worked with faculty and staff across disciplines to ensure they were on the cutting-edge of technology. Her projects ranged from the management of research data to the evaluation of new learning management systems, and she touched departments inside the college and across campus, said Deborah Carver, Philip H. Knight Dean of Libraries.

“She was eager to solve big problems,” Carver said. “I would always hear her say, ‘I don’t care who does it, just as long as we can get it done.’ We will all miss her terribly.”

Leué in the 1990s created the Social Science Instructional Labs, which are PC-based computer labs that assist students, staff and faculty with innovative instructional technology applications in the social sciences.

Geography professor Andrew Marcus, acting dean of the college, said the labs are a key asset and he credited Leué for bringing “a faculty member’s research sensibility” to the university.

“When an instructor or researcher was speaking to her, she really understood their needs from the point-of-view of a practitioner,” Marcus said. “She had that ability to be both personal and warm and helpful, and also stepping back to help the whole institution.”

Leué also taught an introductory macroeconomics course to classes of 250 to 400 students, earning some of the highest teaching evaluations that the department received for those courses.

“She was just the consummate professional – very direct and honest but a positive and supportive person,” said Bruce Blonigen, department head. “I know a lot of people around campus who considered her a mentor and friend across disciplines and departments.”

As the founder and director of CASIT, Leué was responsible for planning and managing IT services for instruction and research. She designed labs for classroom use, consulted with faculty on instructional design, purchased and installed troubleshooting software and hardware and oversaw the maintenance of servers and the hiring and management of technical staff, among other duties.

Supervisors called Leué’s oversight of CASIT “outstanding” in a recent performance evaluation. She was praised for advancing a number of initiatives in the 4-year-old department and for her command of issues facing the service organization.

Hale and other CASIT staff also grew to appreciate Leué’s personal side. A gourmet chef who baked her own bread and spent hours on the perfect dessert, she frequently described to the CASIT team on Mondays the elaborate meals she had prepared for her family the night before.

“Her favorite thing was to cook for her sons and her husband and they had regular Sunday evening meals together,” Hale said. “It was very important for her family to be together for those meals.”

Contributions in Leué’s name can be made to the UO Foundation, toward an economics scholarship in her honor. The donor must specify that the donation is in honor of Cathleen Leué in the "My Gift is a Tribute" box at the bottom of the page. If the contribution is by check, the notes field of the check must include “Cathleen Leué”.

A specially named fund will be created if at least $10,000 in donations have been received within a year. If there is $25,000 or more, an endowed fund can be created. If the donations total less than $10,000, the money will be moved to an existing economics fund of her family’s choice.

- by Matt Cooper, UO Office of Strategic Communications