Ken came to LIT as a student in the 60s and has stuck around ever since. The reason he’s stayed is the same reason he gives back – how much he values what he calls the LTU “family”.
What brought you to Lawrence Tech?
I was the last of six kids and my parents weren't well educated. My mom and dad only finished sixth and third grade, respectively, but my dad was an entrepreneur in the truest sense. He owned all kinds of companies, so I think I got some my willingness to always try new things from him. I had a physics teacher in high school that turned me on to engineering. I wasn't too keen on going to college but he encouraged me to pursue electrical engineering. After getting an associate’s degree from another university and starting a business with my brother, it only took me six months to realize I wanted to do more. So I told my dad I wanted to go away to school so I could be an electrical engineer. I wanted to design and create stuff! That same physics teacher told me about Lawrence Tech, which I'd never heard of. Since I grew up in a small town, the size of the campus and the closeness of the community is what made LTU the best choice for me over other schools in the area. That closeness, to this day, is what I still think sets us apart. Students can build real relationships with faculty and everyone is willing to help each other out and solve problems as a team. We're a family. That's why I think it's important to give back; if LTU's given something to you, it's like you're returning that favor.
Did you have financial aid or scholarships?
Fortunately, my family was able to cover my tuition. I worked while I was a student, which was enough to support myself. It was less than $200 a semester for tuition back then. I met my wife while I was a sophomore. I was going back home to see my family and she was hitchhiking! I picked her up and we spent the whole trip talking. I asked her out and she agreed and by the time I graduated, we were married with two kids. So even though $200 a semester doesn’t sound like much, when you’re raising a family at the same time, it was tough. But it was certainly much more affordable than what kids are paying these days.
What did you do after graduation?
After I graduated in 1964, I started teaching classes for the Technical Institute and I've been here ever since. Up until twelve years ago, I was only an adjunct professor. At that point, instead of retiring, I asked to teach one more class; lo and behold, the administration not only brought me on full time but gave me the opportunity to become Chair of Engineering Technology. I also have 28 or 29 patents—everything from medical devices, to machine tool controls, to energy management technologies. I just love creating, and that's what I try to share with my students.
Why is it important to you to support LTU students?
I try to do whatever I can to help students out, in and out of the classroom. I've driven students home because their car broke down. If they're having trouble with their projects, I'll stay late with them or even invite them over to work in my lab at home, which is really well-equipped. I never thought I'd be in a position to help other people financially. When the asks started coming for faculty and staff campaigns, I wanted to do what I could because of how much I value the LTU family. It started out with small gifts but, as I could afford to give more, I did. A lot of people after graduating see talk of these larger gifts and think "Well, I can't afford that!". But it's about doing what you can. Once you start giving—and that's the hard part—it's easy to continue.
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