Alumni Profile

Pete Kayafas ’51

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Alumni Profile

Pete Kayafas ’51

A World War II vet, Pete Kayafas shares his life adventures over the last 97 years.

Autumn 2022 | Jessica Walker

In This Article

While stationed in England during World War II, U.S. Navy corpsman Pete Kayafas went to a church dance. A beautiful English girl caught his eye. Like any gentleman would, he tapped her partner’s shoulder and asked if he could cut in. Little did Pete and Connie know, they would be dancing together for the next 72 years.

The two planned to marry in England, but Pete was deployed on a special mission to bring a captured German destroyer to the United States. So, Connie crossed the Atlantic Ocean as one of the first British brides to arrive after the war.They married at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Steubenville, Pete’s hometown.

When Pete left the Navy, he enrolled at the new College of Steubenville. After classes during the day, he’d go home to see his wife and young son, grab a quick nap, and then head to the Wheeling Steel Mill for his midnight shift. He studied during whatever time he had between classes and work. “My study hall was the old bar,” he says with a laugh. (The College’s library had previously been home to a nightclub.)

Pete graduated cum laude in 1951 with a bachelor’s degree in economics. Despite the sacrifices, he saw college as his path to a better future. “This college made me into a man,” he says. “It gave me the drive to work hard.”

He went on to have a successful government career, attaining the highest civilian rank and receiving an award from the Secretary of the Air Force for exceptional civilian service. Education remained important. Pete did graduate work with The Ohio State University and American University; he also earned his MBA from Auburn University while concurrently attending Air War College. He then worked in the defense industry, only retiring at 80 years old.

Over their seven decades of marriage, Pete and Connie raised three children and lived in many places, including England. In 2017, Connie passed away after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Now, Pete is 97 years old and enjoying time with his six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. In April 2022, he and his family visited Franciscan University, and Pete shared stories of his life adventures and time at the College of Steubenville.

“School taught me that when you start something, you finish it.” he says, adding that’s “why I love this school, why I brag about it.” And people like Pete Kayafas are why Franciscan University loves bragging about its alumni.

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