TORRINGTON – A question rolling around the campus at Eastern Wyoming College right now is who’s going to handle the Attitude Adjustments?
It’s been a long-standing tradition, said EWC Network Services Administrator Chuck Kenyon. The Attitude Adjustments started as a once-a-year gathering, going to twice a year later, at the home of Kenyon and his wife, Goshen County Clerk Cynthia Kenyon. Everyone who works on the campus gets an invite for an afternoon or evening of relaxation and camaraderie.
But now, after 26 years, Chuck Kenyon is stepping down from his position at the local college, opting to take advantage of an early retirement.
Originally from Florida, Kenyon got his first exposure to EWC in 1983 as a student. He’d originally opted to come to eastern Wyoming to study Computer Science – the role he’d eventually fill at the college – but ended up studying Criminal Justice.
“I don’t know why I switched,” Kenyon said. “It’s funny, it was just a decision I made.”
It was a decision, indirectly, which would end up influencing the major part of the rest of working life. After making the attempt at a career in law enforcement, with stints as a relief officer in Lyman, Neb., and a brief tour with the Torrington Police Department, Kenyon decided that wasn’t what he wanted to do with his life.
Before going to work for EWC, then, Kenyon stuck around Torrington and eastern Wyoming, working at a few different jobs from bartending to eventually landing a position at Bullock Electric. During the interim, in 1987, he also joined the Torrington Volunteer Fire Department, where he’s risen to become a training officer qualified and certified to teach just about anything there is to know about firefighter across the state.
In about 1992, Kenyon was approached by the then-head of the Physical Plant department at EWC, who asked him if he’d be interested in filling a vacant position at the college. The Physical Plant is responsible for keeping all the systems at the college – from plumbing to heating and more – up and running.
“We were doing electrical systems, fire alarm systems, heating systems and boilers,” Kenyon said. “The Physical Plant takes care of everything.”
When he wasn’t attending to the nerves and arteries of the college, he’d pitch in doing just about anything else, from snow removal in the winter to mowing in the spring. But that’s the nature of an institution like EWC, he said.
“It was a lot of responsibility,” Kenyon said. “You think about it, in an institution like this, you can’t afford to call a plumber every time something drips. You have to have people on staff who can do that.”
It was Kenyon’s background with construction and wiring that probably served him best, though, as he eventually made the move from general maintenance staff to the network services department, where he’s been ever since. Through the years, he and a crew of coworkers which he’d later lead were responsible for the hundreds of miles of wire which crisscross the campus, keeping all the different departments, classrooms and dorm rooms connected.
“One of the reasons I was able to get the job in this department was because of my electrical knowledge,” Kenyon said. “A lot of the stuff you do is with computers, with systems to protect those computers, but there’s also network wiring.
“When I started on this job, I was purchasing equipment and I was responsible for building out the network,” he said. “This was a point in time (about 1997) when email was first being introduced.”
The advent and later growth of dependence on technology in education is probably the biggest change Kenyon has seen in his almost three decades at EWC. The college has served as an aggregation hub for the eastern portions of a state-wide fiber optic network built in the early-1990s, serving not only Torrington and Goshen County, but city, county, state and schools in several surrounding counties.
Today, there’s hardly a classroom in the county, state or nation that isn’t wired up in some way of fashion, including EWC.
“At the point in time I was hired in computer services, the teaching classroom was not Information Technology-centric,” Kenyon said. “Now, it’s IT-dependent.”
Through the years, Kenyon didn’t just concern himself with moving bits and bytes around. With his background in criminal justice, he soon became an activity advisor and sponsor to the Lancer chapter of the American Criminal Justice Association, which sponsors competitions and activities for criminal justice students around the country.
ACJA, in conjunction with its regional and national conferences, sponsors a variety of competitions for both student and professional members, ranging from academic testing and physical agility to crime scene investigation competition and shooting contests. And, consistently, the EWC chapter was near the top of the heap nationally, bringing home overall-championship, or “sweepstakes,” trophies, beating out teams from major four-year colleges many times their size.
“Our attitude here was everybody does everything,” Kenyon said. “We tried to train everybody in everything.
“We had excellent firearms instructors and we had excellent support from the college,” he said. “We were very successful with several national championships.”
Kenyon even had a short stint as an adjunct instructor for the college, utilizing his qualifications as a master electrician to teach an apprenticeship program for the next generation. Today, he doesn’t miss being at the head of a classroom of eager young electricians. He gets all the teaching experience he desires working with state and regional fire services.
There have been many other changes at the college in his 26 years, Kenyon said. As the college’s 70th anniversary approaches this year, a history committee has been gathering snippets of EWC’s past. One thing found was an old phone director from 1993, he said. Kenyon and arts, humanities instructor Jon Nesbitt are the only ones from that directory still at the college, he said.
“And construction has been a big thing,” he said. “I have seen the buildings that have been built or modified since I’ve been here.
“And all those renovations that occurred – anything happening in a space, our department was involved in it,” Kenyon said. “Part of my duties was to be a part of the construction management design team, working on the actual details of the plan sets. You can’t do anything today without IT.”
As for his retirement, Kenyon has no definite plans yet. He plans only to continue his work with the fire services and as one of the trainers for TVFD and to see what comes up.
Kenyon will be taking many good memories and strong friendships with him when he leaves EWC for the last time at the end of January. One thing he won’t be taking away, though, are any regrets.
“I was able to provide for my family in a good manner” working at EWC, Kenyon said. “I grew a lot in my 26 years. I met a lot of fine people.”