Matt McKinney, Knox Class of 2013, is part of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize-winning team at the Pittsburgh Post-Gaz...
Office of Communications
2 East South Street
Galesburg, IL 61401-4999
Professor Emeritus, University of Wyoming
Major in Biology, Alumni Achievement Award Winner
Describe your Knox experience.
I view my Knox experience in terms of how three elements—friends, environment, and faculty—influenced an intellectually naïve, politically parochial, and experientially limited suburban bumpkin. My fellow students became part of the learning process, as well as a wonderful peer support group. The environmental atmosphere of the College, and Galesburg itself, had a charming, historical aura, as well as a sense of stability missing from my suburban home, which was undergoing massive, postwar development and change. Finally, the faculty gave generously of themselves with what seems, in retrospect, like loving care. It might not be too much to say that after my parents, these men and women made me what I am.
How has that experience affected your life?
Knox faculty and days spent at Green Oaks influenced me to pursue the field of ecology. This meant gaining a higher academic degree and, ultimately, a fulfilling career in academia, which allowed me to try to understand how nature works through research, as well as to pursue a career-long involvement with students in the classroom and in a wide variety of field experiences. What a luxurious lifestyle—to be paid to do what one wanted most to do, in an academic environment dedicated to learning and helping others to achieve their potential! But there were other influences too: appreciation of literature, maintaining a musical side of life, trying to understand humankind and society, striving to be decent and to recognize what is truly progressive in social and moral senses. These ancillary values were Knox legacies as well.
What do you believe is your most notable achievement?
For all the time, effort, and money spent on research, my contributions in that area, although respectable, are relatively minor compared with my helping undergraduates and graduate students achieve their goals and have fulfilling lives, themselves. Giving to students as a teacher and mentor and to my institution through various leadership roles are important achievements.