Skip to main content
Life Sciences Magazine

Dr. Gary Booth: A Lifelong Legacy

While at BYU, Dr. Gary Booth taught a wide range of subjects. Students and faculty alike appreciated Booth and his impact on the college.

Dr. Gary Booth began his teaching career as an assistant professor at the University of Illinois but soon took a job with Brigham Young University because of the opportunity to work directly with undergraduate students. Though Illinois offered great research opportunities, Booth knew his real passion was teaching.

Headshot of Dr. Gary Booth.

While at BYU, Booth taught a wide range of
subjects. He taught higher-level courses in the Departments of Biology and Plant & Wildlife Sciences, while also teaching Biology 100, which is a course required for nonmajors, and Book of Mormon in the religion department. Through these courses, he had an impact on students throughout the university.

Booth was known for wearing costumes, using entertaining visual aids, and telling jokes in lectures. Dr. Neil Hansen, now the Department of Plant and Wildlife Sciences Chair, recalls being a student in Dr. Booth’s biology class: “I will never forget when we were waiting for class to start, suddenly ‘The Flight of the Bumblebee’ began echoing in the lecture hall. Then, Drs. Booth and Cox came dancing through the hall wearing bumblebee suits.” Hansen went on to study with Booth as a graduate student. He compares these classes to “the biology version of the Dead Poets Society.” It was an experience that inspired everyone involved. Later, Hansen had the opportunity to work with Booth in yet another capacity, as a colleague.

Students enjoyed Booth’s classes not only for his fun and humorous nature but also for his testimony and insights on the divine in science. Many found Booth’s biology classes as spiritual as the Book of Mormon classes he taught. When interviewed by the BYU Daily Universe. Booth explained, "The reason I think that happens is the passion I feel and the beauty and balance of the creation. Everything is connected... If the kids see that connection, they're really studying the patterns of the Creator and some of the things that the Creator has used to put these organisms into place."

Emily Krueger, who worked as Booth's teaching assistant (TA), recalls how he focused on the individual student, encouraging his TAs to reach out to those who were struggling. “As I worked in his office for my TA responsibilities, it was almost daily that he would meet with a student one-on-one. He was invested in everyone’s lives. You could tell he felt it was a sacred stewardship to mentor students. He engaged with struggling students and offered sincere compassion.”

Students and faculty alike appreciated Booth and his impact on the college. In 2009, when Booth was nominated for the Karl G. Maeser Excellence in Teaching Award, many fellow faculty wrote letters of support. One colleague expressed, “His dedication to scientific achievement, coupled with a sincere love for and ability to teach aspiring young people, is always couched in the framework of the true Christian principles of the gospel.” Another colleague shared how her son had taken Biology 100, a general education course, with Booth. Her son decided to change his major after Booth helped him discover a love for biology.

Booth gave his last lectures while on oxygen and battling pulmonary fibrosis. He continued to teach when most would have given up. He passed away on March 14, 2019, at the age of 78.