BETHANY, W.Va. – The Bethany College community on Tuesday celebrated Professor Emeritus of Biology Dr. Albert “Jay” Buckelew for his role as a biologist, teacher, mentor, adviser, and friend ahead of his planned move to Colorado Springs.

Dr. Albert "Jay" BuckelewBuckelew taught biology at Bethany for 42 years before retiring in June 2011. During his career, he served as department chair and was the longest-serving adviser to the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity.

“I don’t really think of it as a job; my career here was really just a joyful enterprise,” he said. “I enjoyed every minute of almost everything I did – there might have been a committee or two that I could have skipped – but honestly, I was always sort of amazed that I was being paid to do something like this.”

Several dozen people joined a live Zoom sendoff. Buckelew and his wife, Susan, are moving to Colorado be closer to family.

Buckelew credited Susan for being his right hand over the years.

He also discussed the importance, as a faulty member, of being involved in student life.

“Being a faculty member only in the classroom and the labs, you miss an awful lot of the pleasure that you can obtain and also what you might do to help students in their education,” he said.

A microbiologist, Buckelew helped discover the role of surfactants in lungs, helping to save a lot of premature babies. He is also well-known for his contributions to ornithology, sampling the breeding birds in the Parkinson Forest on Bethany’s campus for almost 50 years.

Buckelew co-directed the first West Virginia breeding bird atlas project and often guided aviary walks for Bethany students.

“I admire especially the emphasis Dr. Buckelew placed on the outdoors and the direct experience students have with the natural world,” said Dr. Anna Edlund, chair of the Biology Department. “In this time of virtual classes, it is especially important that we give our students meaningful experiences, direct experiences with nature.”

The college recently dedicated a new path in honor of Buckelew as part of its effort to revitalize the Bethany Trail System. Kenn Morgan ’71, the Jennie Steindorf Renner Chair of Fine Arts and professor of fine arts, presented Buckelew with a painting of the trail.

In addition, the Tri-Beta Biology Club has placed a framed photo of Buckelew in the Tri-Beta room in Kirkpatrick Hall.

Ian Nelson, a sophomore and president of Tri-Beta, considers himself fortunate to have the opportunity to experience bird walks and lectures with Buckelew.

“From my first interaction with him, it became evident how friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable Dr. Buckelew really is, not just on the topic of birds but seemingly anything it all,” Nelson said.

Bethany College Trustee Ken Bado recalled meeting Buckelew in the fall of 1973. The professor served as Bado’s adviser and taught his first class on campus, Sensitivity to the Natural World. Every class was held outdoors, and Buckelew instilled in Bado a continuing love of ornithology.

“Bethany College is many things to many people, and, to me, our secret sauce is our faculty,” Bado said. “Jay Buckelew epitomizes the best of the best of what Bethany stands for.”

Bado was president of Phi Tau when Buckelew began as the adviser in 1976. Buckelew held that role until 2008. He was recognized in 1991 as the Brandon Outstanding Chapter Adviser, was honored for meritorious service to Phi Chapter in 2003, and was inducted into the inaugural class of national Phi Kappa Tau Hall of Fame.

Ben Fedoush, a Bethany junior and president of Phi Kappa Tau, recalled Buckelew being one of the first alumni he met on campus and his always having a story to share.

“We like to teach our new members about famous Phi Taus that have come around, and you are one of the first names that we teach them,” Fedoush told Buckelew.

James Gerb ‘77 and Donna Smith ’74 set up a fund in Buckelew’s honor to ensure that the biology department has the tools it needs to attract and train students in biology.

“From you we learned about the joy of discovering new concepts and learning new ideas, and that was your gift to us,” Gerb said. “You taught us with a quiet passion and knowledge that was contagious and influential for your students.”

Bethany Mayor Shirley Kemp, director of advancement services at Bethany College, and Cindy Slater, president of the Brooks Bird Club, also recognized Buckelew for his contributions.

He is a past president of the Brooks Bird Club and served as the editor for the club’s journal, The Redstart.

Buckelew also served until this year as the secretary of the Bethany Sanitation Board.


Bethany College, founded in 1840, is the oldest private college in West Virginia. The Bethany experience focuses on academic excellence in the area of liberal arts and prepares students for a lifetime of work and a life of significance.