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A Miami Moment with ... John "Jack" Keegan

04/04/2013

John
John
John "Jack" Keegan is well-known in the Miami University community. After all, he is the man who teaches the wine class. Starting in 1977 as the greenhouse manager, the 2007 Distinguished Service Award winner said it is the students he cannot leave.

One former student is making him even more famous this week. The elusive "corpse flower," a gift to him from a former student, is now expected to bloom this weekend, and it is one of only 200 to do so.

Q: I understand Joan McElfresh Leonard (Miami '86) gave the flower to you as a gift for the department. How did it happen?

A: “Greenhouses throughout the United States trade materials. But to get this from Joan, who worked here, and she didn’t even know if it would flower or leaf, is a great honor and surprise. She was a botany major, worked in the greenhouse and we’ve remained friends. Who knows, one of her sons is now looking at colleges.”

Q: What makes you so happy about the flower?

A: “This week a local resident told me the whole town is talking about it. I think it’s nice it’s creating some excitement about plants.”

Q: You teach viticulture and enology, or the “wine class,” which is a Miami tradition to students. How did you come up with the idea for the class?

A: “Miami has a long history. John Dome taught geography of wines from 1977-1990. I sat in on it and always enjoyed it. Since I had some experience, I decided I wanted to teach a class on it. But it’s definitely a botany class, we spend a lot of time talking about what goes on in the vineyard.”

Q: It appears to be a very popular course. How long have you taught it?

A: “I’ve been teaching it since 1995, and I am already getting calls for next year. I am getting emails and calls from students who want to force add it. It’s taught once in the fall and two sections in the spring. The students are trying to get in for the fall. Over the course of my career, I’ve taught almost 5,000 kids viticulture and enology”

Q: You teach other classes too, like horticulture. Do you have a favorite class to teach?

A: “No. I don’t have a favorite. I love teaching. Teaching is so much fun. Getting to know the students is so great. I have about 280 students each year in the wine class — so maybe that’s my favorite — but I like horticulture and landscaping.”

Editor's note: The flower is now expected to bloom between Sunday or Tuesday. If you can’t make it to the greenhouse to see and smell the flower, watch live updates at the webcam. /botony/titan.

The Belk Greenhouse is open between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. weekdays. The greenhouse will be open noon-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. If the flower opens, the greenhouse will extend hours. The flower is now expected to bloom between Sunday and Tuesday.

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