NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Friends, students and colleagues remembered the head of The Covenant School as a strong female leader and a champion of education.
Katherine Koonce, 60, was one of six people fatally shot at the Nashville private Christian school on Monday. The others were 9-year-old students at the school: Evelyn Dieckhaus, William Kinney and Hallie Scruggs. The other adults killed were Mike Hill, 61, a custodian at the school; and Cynthia Peak, 61, a substitute teacher.
“If there was any trouble in that school, she would run to it, not from it,” Jackie Bailey said of her friend, according to The Associated Press. “She was trying to protect those kids
“That’s just what I believe.”
“She loved God and she loved people,” Stephana Greene, a parent of children who attend The Covenant School, told WVLA-TV. “So, it doesn’t surprise me at all that she died protecting people.”
According to the school’s website, Koonce received her bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University in 1985. She earned her master’s degree in education from Georgia State University in 1995 and was awarded a doctorate in education at Trevecca Nazarene University, a Christian university located in Nashville, in 2015.
Before that, she worked for nearly 15 years at Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville. She was the academic dean at the school from 2009 to 2016; before that, she was the school’s director of learning services for almost nine years.
Diane Button told People that she met Koonce when her 8-year-old daughter started at Christ Presbyterian Academy.
“Katherine was as solid as a friend could be,” Button told the magazine. “Her faith was her foundation. Her family was her greatest love, yet she always wanted to work and give back so other families and children could also feel loved and cared for.”
Barrett Severance, another former student at Christ Presbyterian Academy, said Koonce’s personality “was as bright as the colors she would wear on her outfit.”
“In high school, there was a lot of times that I felt like giving up, and she would fight for us,” Severance told WTVF. “She was very much a champion for her students. She fought for all of them -- often when we quit fighting for ourselves.”
A family friend told WAFB-TV that Koonce was originally from Baton Rouge. She was a wife and mother of two. She attended the Louisiana State University Laboratory School in Baton Rouge, according to WVLA.
“Their family was so good to us, and Katherine always made sure my daughter was included. She made such a big difference in our lives,” Button told People. “You could always count on Katherine to show up with her giant heart and her brilliant mind. There is no doubt in my mind that she died while giving herself wholeheartedly to those children and co-workers she loved so much.”
Anna Caudill, a former art teacher, worked with Koonce for nearly a decade at Christ Presbyterian Academy.
“She was an absolute dynamo and one of the smartest women I’ll ever know,” Caudill told the AP. “She wasn’t Wonder Woman, but I never saw the two in the same place.”