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Working at CSU

Pat McKee celebrates 45 years of service

May 5, 2010
By Paul Miller

A longtime philosophy professor reflects on the people and events that influenced him throughout his decades of teaching at the University.

More than four decades on campus

Pat Mckee, professor of philosophy, is well into his 46th year of service at CSU.

Philosophy Professor Pat McKee recently was thinking about the U.S. Supreme Court justices.

“Their jobs are similar to ours,” says McKee, who is well into his 46th year of service at Colorado State University. “Legal thinking is very close to philosophy. You’re always thinking through puzzles, abstract problems, quandaries, and contradictory matters.”

Throughout his career as a justice of philosophy – so to speak – McKee has enjoyed teaching aesthetics and philosophical issues of aging and gerontology. Fortunately for students, McKee has no immediate plans to retire from his interest in puzzles and quandaries.

McKee was born and raised in Spokane, Wash., and always has appreciated the mountain environment. He received a bachelor’s in philosophy from Gonzaga University in Spokane, followed by graduate school at the University of Maryland. While at UM, McKee realized just how strong his ties were to the West.

“The time I spent back East felt very claustrophobic to me,” he says. “It was a closed feeling – the East doesn’t have the same kind of openness that we do here.”

Joined CSU in 1964

When he joined CSU in 1964, he was glad to sink back into a mountain home.

“I liked what I saw here. At the time, there were 6,000 students at the school, and it looked like it was going to expand a lot,” McKee says. “Bill Morgan was president, and the campus was experiencing a building boom.

“Philosophy had just broken off from the Department of English a couple of years before I started here. Willard Eddy, an iconic figure on campus, hired me. The philosophy faculty totaled four members, but over the years quite a few more positions were added.”

McKee remembers Eddy’s considerable influence in starting the philosophy department and originating the Honors Program at CSU.

“He was formidable, engaging, charismatic man with a deep bass voice. He was very clear in his thoughts and expression and revered as a teacher. I used to go around the state giving talks on philosophy, and often somebody in the audience would ask me if Professor Eddy was still at the University. He was well remembered by his students.”

Department chair from 1980-87

McKee served as department chairman from 1980-87. At that time, the department began introducing a curriculum in applied ethics in environmental, animal, business, and other ethics studies.

“As a philosophy discipline, we wanted to be more engaged with the world,” he says. “I went into gerontology, which has to do with philosophical theories of aging, and I’ve done a lot of my publishing in that field.” Included in that work are two books, Philosophical Foundations of Gerontology and Real Life: Ten Stories of Aging, an anthology of fiction he edited with Jon Thiem, professor of English and comparative literature here.

In addition to teaching, McKee is an active scholar who regularly writes and publishes in the fields of epistemology and the history of philosophy.

As chair, McKee also was instrumental in creating an endowment for the department to support faculty research in philosophy. The endowment was one of the more substantial at the time in the College of Liberal Arts, and it remains a strong funding source today.

Paints landscapes, art aficionado

McKee’s aesthetic interests don’t stop in the classroom. He paints Western landscapes in oil and had an exhibit of 30 paintings at Morgan Library from November 2009 until March this year. Two landscapes adorn his office walls. And although he still actively paints, he considers himself an amateur. “Becoming a good painter isn’t something you do in your spare time,” he says.

Amateur or not, he remains an aficionado of art and has toured almost every major art gallery in Europe.

McKee’s aesthetic life continues with his family. His wife, Bobbie, recently retired after a long career at Eastman Kodak. The couple’s daughter, Cindy, is a CSU alumna in occupational therapy and works in Texas. Cindy’s twin sister, Becky, is a restaurant manager in Florida, and son Bob is systems manager at Carestream Health company in Windsor. Their youngest daughter, Debbie, was a law clerk in West Palm Beach County, Fla., before moving back to Fort Collins.

Celebrate CSU Milestones 3 p.m. Thursday

Join the University community in honoring employees during Celebrate CSU Milestones at 3 p.m. May 6 in the Lory Student Center Main Ballroom.

The special all-University event celebrates employees who are retiring and recognizes those who have reached 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, and 45 years of service to Colorado State University.

Contact: CSU Events
Phone: (970) 491-4601