Kenneth Barclay Armitage, 96, died January 6, 2022 at his home in Lawrence Kansas. He was born in Steubenville, Ohio, on April 18, 1925, the only child of Albert Kenneth and Virginia Huntingdon (nee Barclay) Armitage. Early in childhood he became interested in natural history and spent many hours observing birds and collecting wild flowers and insects. As a Boy Scout he particularly enjoyed camping and hiking and was especially proud when he earned a merit badge for Bird Study. He led community bird walks and spent several summers as the nature counselor at YMCA camps in Steubenville and Zanesville, Ohio. He graduated with honor from Steubenville High School in 1943 and shortly thereafter he answered the summons of his neighbors and was inducted into the Army of the United States. He was assigned to the Army Air Corps for flight training, but when air corps casualties decreased the need for flight personnel, Ken was transferred out of the flight-training program and eventually was transferred to the infantry. He subsequently served briefly with the 14th Armored Division in Germany in the spring of 1945. Shortly after V-E Day, he was stationed in Munich before being transferred to the 45th Infantry Division for possible service in the Far East. However, the atomic bomb ended the war and Ken was honorably discharged in January 1946.
With the support of the G. I. Bill, Ken entered Bethany College, W. Va., in the fall of 1946 and graduated summa cum laude in the spring of 1949 with a major in biology. He was inducted into Beta Beta Beta, the honorary biological society, and received the Hoagland Award as the outstanding senior graduate. While at Bethany College, Ken formed the Outdoor Club and was active in various campus activities, including a failed attempt to integrate the student body. Ken refused to join a fraternity because of the institutionalized racial and religious biases. His activism was recognized by his induction into the campus leadership honor society.
In the summer of 1949 Ken worked as a Ranger Naturalist at the Old Faithful area in Yellowstone National Park. He continued this activity every summer through 1954. This time in Yellowstone made possible two critical events in his life. He did his doctoral dissertation on the ecology of the Firehole River and met a student from Baylor University who later became his wife.
Ken attended graduate school at the University of Wisconsin in Madison from 1949 to 1954. He was awarded a National Science Foundation pre-doctoral fellowship and a Knapp House Fellowship and in 1952 was inducted in Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society. Upon graduation, he taught for two years in the University of Wisconsin Freshman-Sophomore Centers, first in Green Bay and then in Wausau. In the fall of 1956 Ken joined the Department of Zoology at The University of Kansas in Lawrence. He achieved the rank of Professor in 1966 and was appointed the Baumgartner Distinguished Professor of Systematics and Ecology in 1987 and became Professor Emeritus upon his retirement in 1996. Ken was deeply interested in undergraduate education and served as Chair of the Biology Department (Undergraduate) from 1968 to 1975 and Director of Undergraduate Programs in the Division of Biological Sciences from 1975 through 1981. He was one of the founders of the Undergraduate Environmental Studies Program, served on the Environmental Studies Committee (1973-1982), and was program chair (1976-1982). He also served as Chair of the Department of Systematics and Ecology (1982-1988).
Ken joined the University Field Facilities Committee in 1969 and was Chair from 1974 to 1979. During this period the Kansas Field Station expanded with the addition of the John H. Nelson Environmental Study Area, which Ken directed from 1973 to 1992. He represented KU as a member of the Organization of Biological Field Stations and served as vice-president and president (1986-1989). When the Field Facilities Committee was replaced with the Program in Experimental and Applied Ecology, Ken served as the director (1979-1994). Of the numerous departmental and university committees on which he participated, Ken especially enjoyed the Steering Committee for the University Campus Heritage Plan (2006-2008). Ken's interest in history was stimulated by his wife and expressed by his membership in Historic Mount Oread Friends where he served as president (2004-2011).
Ken's early research interests focused on aquatic ecology; a highlight of this period was his discovery of the ice-covered warm-water lakes in Antarctica in 1961. He received the Antarctic Medal for research in Antarctica in 1968. His interests shifted to exploring the roles of physiological and behavioral mechanisms in animal population dynamics. He focused this interest on a 40-year study of the population biology of the yellow-bellied marmot in Colorado at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory where he served on the board of trustees (1969-1986) and as its president (1985-1986). The marmot research, the second longest continuous study of a mammal, culminated in the book Marmot Biology: Sociality, Individual Fitness, and Population Dynamics published in 2014 by Cambridge University Press. Overall in his career, Ken authored or co-authored 246 publications, which included book reviews, journal articles, and book and symposium chapters. Ken read many papers at society meetings and gave 23 invited talks at symposia and conferences and 55 seminars at colleges and universities.
His numerous honors included election as a Fellow of the Animal Behavior Society and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. From KU he received the Education Service Award (1979) and election to Phi Beta Kappa (1991). He received the Alumni Achievement Award for Biological Research from Bethany College, WV (1989), the C. Hart Merriam Award for mammalian research from the American Society of Mammalogists (1997), and was elected an Honorary Member of the American Society of Mammalogists (2009) for ""distinguished service to the science of mammalogy."" In 2014 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory.
Ken married Katie Lou Hart in New Boston, Texas, on June 5, 1953. Ken loved her deeply, respected her abilities, and was proud of her awards which recognized her contributions to local and Kansas history. In addition to Katie, Ken is survived by their children and grandchildren: Karole; Keith, wife Maria, and daughters Emeline, Julia, and Sophie; and Kevin, and his daughter Rita.
Memorials may be sent to the Kansas University Endowment Association PO Box 928, Lawrence KS, 66044-0928 and specified for either the Armitage Speakers Fund or the Kansas Field Station and may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th Street, Lawrence, KS 66044.
For more information or to post a condolence go to warrenmcelwain.com.
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Published by Lawrence Journal-World on Jan. 9, 2022.