Dr. Ken West has taught at LC for 39 years. During that time, he wrote more than 1,400 newspaper columns in 28 years. With his retirement approaching, he looked back on his career and answered questions for University of Lynchburg Magazine.
What was the best surprise of your career?
How perfectly matched University of Lynchburg and I have been. LC encouraged me to run with every interest I developed. I wrote 1,486 weekly columns in The News & Advance over a 28-year span and hosted a family call-in radio show for WLVA. At one point our graduate students were teaching parent education classes alongside school counselors in 17 elementary schools each semester. Later we opened the Center for Family Studies and Educational Advancement that has hosted workshops and classes for almost two decades. LC supported me as I wrote five books — two were translated into other languages. In addition, I locally published two books of columns to help nonprofit organizations. Most importantly, my wife Patty and I forged close friendships with faculty and staff that we will savor for the rest of our lives.
What’s the best marital or parental advice you ever gave? Ever received?
Long ago our parents advised Patty and me to focus on our marriage, because the children will be passing through “faster than you can ever imagine.” Both of our fathers were avid gardeners, and Patty and I learned from them the similar, constant care the marital garden deserves. This remains the best advice I can offer to young couples with children.
What’s the best advice you ever ignored?
I have always told people not to retire from something until they know what they are retiring to. But I love my work and I’ve found myself being so constantly busy that I now realize I will only develop new interests after I create the time to become as actively curious as our grandchildren.
If you could have one doover, what would it be?
Although this is not a true do-over, I wish I were more extroverted. But I realize if I had been, it is unlikely that I would have been able to hit so many deadlines or could have pushed myself never to return a term paper or test later than the next class. Nevertheless, I imagine that I missed out on many interesting experiences.
How did cancer change your world view?
For one week the doctors at Johns Hopkins thought the cancer had spread through my body. Maybe it took that scare for me to internalize the truth that the end can come anytime. Today, not “someday,” I need to experience new things that I hope I’ll initially be really lousy at doing.
What do you think you will miss most/least about teaching/writing your column?
I won’t miss deadlines or writing endless comments on papers. But I will miss my students and readers.
What recognition meant the most to you and why?
I received the first Shirley Rosser Teaching Award at LC. That meant so much to me because of the student nominations and because of my admiration for Shirley Rosser and his family. University of Lynchburg gave me a most wonderful professional life. I am a Hornet.