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Alumni Spotlight: Judge Thomas Kleeh

 By Raimah Hossain, Honors Student Ambassador

Judge Kleeh headshot.

The Honors College recently had the chance to sit down and chat with the Honorable Thomas Kleeh, District Judge for the Northern District of West Virginia. Judge Kleeh joined the Honors Program at West Virginia University in 1992 and graduated with a bachelor of science in business administration with an emphasis in accounting in 1996.

Kleeh discussed influential classes and people he encountered throughout his time with the Honors Program that continue to shape his life to this day.

Kleeh's Time in the Honors Program

As he liked to refer to it, “a long, long time ago” Judge Kleeh joined the Honors Program at WVU. At the time, the main benefit to joining the Honors program for Kleeh was the priority scheduling. Priority scheduling not only made it easier to find a desirable schedule and to get into classes that filled up quickly, but also allowed Kleeh to work his schedule around “not having class on Fridays during football season.”

The Honors Program at the time worked similarly to the Honors Foundation Program now, requiring students to complete a certain number of Honors credits to receive the Honors designation upon graduation.

Developing Skills

Of the Honors courses that Judge Kleeh took, he said his political science 102 class was especially memorable. Taught by Dr. Hammock, one of the professors at the forefront of the political science department at the time, this class of 8-10 people was a refreshing change of pace for Kleeh.

The small class size, a characteristic emblematic of Honors courses to this day, facilitated heated debates and discussions which Kleeh felt allowed himself to first develop the communication skills that he utilized in his future. Kleeh attended a small high school in Wheeling, but once he arrived at WVU, most of his other classes were much larger than this POLI SCI course, so Kleeh enjoyed the give and take that this class and other Honors courses allowed for.

Forging Friendships

Although Judge Kleeh’s time at WVU was academically rigorous, when recollecting his time here, his focus never strayed far from the people he met and the friendships he fostered living in the Honors designated floor of Arnold Hall his freshman year. Some of the people he sat with in the small TV room of the residence hall are people he works with professionally to this day.

Kleeh specifically recalls “the dumbest beach trip ever” as one of his favorite memories during his time with the Honors Program.

The Beach Trip

One rather calm Friday night during dead week his spring semester of his freshman year, he and his Arnold Hall buddies were scouring downtown, looking for opportunities to do — anything to give themselves a break from studying. Upon finding nothing, one of them proposed a rather silly idea, “Let’s go to the beach!” Realizing the rather land-locked nature of West Virginia as a whole, Kleeh said “Like Cheat Lake?”

But before he knew it, he and five of his residence hall pals were all crammed into a car, reaching Ocean City, Maryland right before the sun rose. Although all of them received quite hefty sunburns, and finals week was spent loaded up on studying and an abundant amount of aloe, those moments are ones Kleeh advises students to savor while in college. Two of the people who ventured on that trip with Kleeh continued to attend the West Virginia University College of Law with him, and are still good friends of Kleeh’s presently.

Honors Memories

Kleeh has an abundance of memories such as those from his time with the Honors Program, and that is what he said was his main takeaway from the Honors Program.

The Honors Program and the incredibly impressive students it has attracted since Kleeh graduated has really allowed WVU to improve its academic reputation. For students in the Honors College now, this only adds to the rich experience one can make of their time at WVU.

As Kleeh obtained nomination and confirmation for his position as a U.S. District Judge, the people he met in college were the ones sending emails and making phone calls, speaking highly of him.

“Be cool,” Kleeh says, referring to his advice to students to build long-lasting relationships through the Honors College, allowing one to have a fun time in college but a solid network after as well.

Judge Kleeh serves as a perfect testament to the Honors College’s ability to serve as a bridge between a rich, personal college experience and a successful future for many.

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