The Honors College recently had the chance to sit down and chat with
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.”
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.
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.
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.
specifically recalls “the dumbest beach trip ever” as one of his
favorite memories during his time with the Honors Program.
The Beach Trip
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?”
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 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
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.