Dr. Keith Garbutt first came to WVU in 1987 as an assistant professor of biology, teaching a course in population & quantitative genetics.
But before he came to WVU, he spent time as a high school teacher, then deciding to pursue and complete a PhD from the University of Wales in Cardiff, Wales. He acted as a visiting researcher at the University of Illinois and Harvard University. He remembers that the first class he taught at the University of Illinois was botany, with almost 500 students in the class.
His involvement with what was then known as the WVU Honors Program began in his second year at WVU in 1988, when then Honors Program director, Dr. Bill Collins, approached him about teaching a one-hour Biology 115 add-on class, where had the ability to be flexible with the syllabus. Dr. Garbutt said the experience was invigorating, and many students worked with him in his research lab. In addition to serving as the chair of the biology department, he also became the Honors advisor for the biology program, and taught the Biology 115 add-on class until he became the director of the Honors Program in 2000 when Dr. Collins retired.
Dr. Garbutt vividly remembers working with Honors staff JoAnn Evans and Vickie Sigley over the years, and also recalls the numerous outstanding student workers in the Honors office.
In the early 2000s, WVU administration officials became concerned because the University was losing some of the outstanding students in West Virginia to out-of-state competitors, and one of the reasons they discovered was that those schools had Honors Colleges, as opposed to Honors Programs. After doing some further research, the WVU Honors Program became the WVU Honors College in 2006, and Dr. Garbutt was named the dean, with Dr. Ryan Claycomb serving as the assistant dean.
At that time, Dadisman and Stalnaker Halls were where Honors freshmen lived. But in 2009, the Honors College got its own dedicated Honors residence hall when Honors Hall was completed on the downtown campus, housing around 350 students. Dr. Garbutt and his wife, Chris, became the Resident Faculty Leaders (RFLs) of Honors Hall, and actually lived in an apartment within the hall.
Dr. Garbutt was even involved with the design of the hall. In the end, it was decided to go with a more traditional look, as opposed to a more modern one, where they would be able to create a special collegiate environment. In addition to Dr. Keith Garbutt and Chris, their dog, Huxley, became a resident of Honors Hall, and quickly became very popular with students living there.
Dr. Garbutt remembers moving into the Honors Hall apartment literally as the construction was being finished. He recalls special memories of their Book at Bedtime events, where students would gather in the evening to hear him read chapters from a book he had selected for fun. He remembers watching the Honors community grow, and seeing the students grow too, in this environment where they felt safe, and lived among students with similar academic goals.
Another memory Dr. Garbutt has is getting the Quidditch team up and running. (Harry Potter was wildly popular at the time.) He also remembers an Honors College film competition, where students created their own movies. He in particular thinks back to one memorable film about Huckleberry Finn touring around Morgantown. Another video he recalled with laughter involved Dr. Garbutt’s head being super-imposed on a Chippendale dancer moving to the music of the Backstreet Boys. The video ended with a song titled “Calculus”, and he found it immensely entertaining! Other fond memories included events in the Honors Hall courtyard, bar-b-ques, smores, and celebrating Mardi Gras and Halloween.
In 2014, Dr. Garbutt left WVU to become the inaugural dean of the Honors College at Oklahoma State University, where his office is located in Old Central, which is the oldest building on campus. There he teaches a course he developed at WVU, “Confronting Pseudo Science,” and he also teaches a one-hour seminar called “Nature’s Assassin.” Today, Dr. Garbutt and his wife, Chris, live in Stillwater, Oklahoma with their dog Darwin.