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Virgil K. Howe

April 22, 1931 — May 27, 2024

Hays, KS

Virgil K. Howe

Virgil Keith Howe, former Dean of Health and Life Sciences at Fort Hays State University, died May 27, 2024, at Homestead Assisted Living in Hays, Kansas. He was 93.

 Virgil was born April 22, 1931, on a farm outside of King City, Missouri to Fred and Luella (Jameson) Howe. He started school in a one-room country schoolhouse and graduated from King City High School as salutatorian for the class of 1949. He attended Gila Junior College, later Eastern Arizona Junior College, for two years, before transferring to Central Methodist College in Fayette, Missouri.

 In March of 1952, he enlisted in the United States Air Force, serving as a medical technician in Tripoli, Libya and later transferring to Athens, Greece where he remained until his discharge in 1956. After returning to the U.S., he married Virginia Mae (Birbeck) on June 3, 1956, in King City.

 He enrolled at Northwest Missouri State College and received his Bachelor of Science degree in Biology in 1957. He accepted a graduate assistantship in the Department of Biology at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, where he received a Master of Science degree with a major in botany in 1961. He was then accepted into the graduate program of the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology at Iowa State University, majoring in forest pathology with a special emphasis in the problems of shade trees. He received his PhD in 1964.

 Virgil’s first faculty position was as an associate professor of biological science at Northwestern State College of Louisiana in Natchitoches. In 1968, he joined the faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois. He served as Chair of the Department for two years and was subsequently appointed Associate and Acting Provost and Academic Vice President at WIU.

 In 1988, he was encouraged by Dr. Gene Fleharty to seek appointment as the first dean of the new College of Health of Life Sciences at Fort Hays State University. Over the nine years he served as dean at FHSU, three new degree programs were developed, the number of student majors nearly doubled, two new academic departments were created, and he was involved in procuring more than seven hundred thousand dollars in external funding support for the College. Additionally, he served as a member of the External Advisory Board of Kansas Health Institute and the Advisory Board for the development of the Primary Care Physician Education Program at the University of Kansas Medical Center. 

 Virgil had a long-standing commitment to Rotary International. Upon retiring from FHSU, he was elected as Rotary District Governor for northwest Kansas from 1998-1999. 

Upon Virginia's passing, he remained at Homestead of Hays, where he cherished the companionship of his extended family, the residents and staff.

 He is survived by a daughter, Christine and husband, Mark Milford, Kingman, KS; a son, Daniel and wife, Amy Howe, Lexington KY; six grandchildren, Jessica Quinn and husband, Sean Greenlee, Haysville, KS; Grant and wife, Caroline Quinn, Brunswick, GA; Ian Quinn, Wichita, KS; Wesley Howe, Lexington, KY; Austin and wife, Sarah Howe, Elmira, NY; and Zachary Howe, Lexington, KY; two step-grandsons, Jacob Milford, Wichita, KS; Riley Milford, Maize, KS; three great-grandchildren, Vivienne, Adele, and Rhett Greenlee, Haysville, KS; two-step-great-grandchildren, Anghus and Amia Houghtelling, Brunswick, GA; one brother, Robert Howe and wife, Anne, King City, MO; sister-in-law and husband, Mary and Jack Bush, Dallas, TX; sister-in-law, Mimi Birbeck of Mankato, MN; and several nieces and nephews.

 He was preceded in death by his wife, of 64+ years Virginia on October 4, 2020, his parents, Fred and Luella; a sister and brother-in-law, Betty and Gordon Howitt.

 A memorial service for both Virgil and Virginia will be held at 3:00 P.M. Saturday, June 29, 2024, at the First Presbyterian Church, 2900 Hall Street, Hays, Kansas with Rev. Christine Wagner officiating. Military Honors will be presented by the Hays V.F.W. Post #9076. The Family will receive friends from 2:00 to 3:00 P.M. Saturday, at the church.

 A private family inurnment will be at the Kansas Veterans Cemetery at WaKeeney, Kansas.

 The family suggests memorials made payable to: Hays Rotary Club or Rotary International in care of Cline’s-Keithley Mortuary of Hays, 1919 East 22nd, Hays, Kansas 67601.

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