Moments from a Meaningful Life

Dr. Ken Weller, Central’s president from 1970 to 1990, was a significant force in bringing the college into the modern age. His is a story of the last century’s great moments and great struggles — World War II, women’s rights, the globalization of education. Dr. Bob Leonard of KNIA/KRLS interviewed Dr. Weller about his time in the U.S. Navy, his degree in economics, his years as a football coach, his legacy as a college president and his work creating Division III and institutionalizing women’s sports.

In Dr. Weller’s Own Words

About his time as an electronic technician in the Navy and the atom bomb:  “I was one of those very, very unusual persons that was clearly ticketed to go on the invasion of Japan … I am one of those people that’s probably here only because of what Truman finally decided to do … I don’t think we really  appreciated at the time the horror of nuclear bombing … I did not ever, until later, get to the point of balancing that there were some other people who are gone, who paid the prices that made it possible for me to be here … I’ve become aware of what a difficult, difficult situation it is to try to weigh the life of one person against the life of another.”

About teaching at Hope College (Mich.) and serving as president of Central: “Even when I became a college president, I felt that I was really a teacher who was taking on some administrative duties … I feel whatever successes I had as a college president were in significant measure due to the fact that I was a teacher at heart.”

About drafting the Division III philosophy statement: “I have a feeling that athletics, really, are a part of education … The way you justify athletics is not to entertain the spectator but to influence the lives of the participants. That really is the essence of what Division III seeks to do.”

About his work pioneering women’s sports at the collegiate level: “I was in the decision-making process of something that was a major determinant of cultural change in society in the last 25-30 years. It’s a remarkable thing how rapidly and how well women took to the opportunity of participating in athletics.”

About the international programs created under his leadership at Central: “The international programs are a thing that distinguishes our college from almost every other college … We moved in the area of overseas studying abroad for students in a very aggressive way that was really quite remarkable … Most of it was built after I came here, and I was of a mind that I came because I thought it was a good idea and I wanted to build it.”

About his legacy at Central: “I’d like to be remembered as a person who cared — who cared about students and what happened to them and how they grew and how people worked together. I was never a college president on a white horse; I was a consensus builder.”

About this year’s incoming freshman: “I’d advise them to be open — to be open to new ideas and new opportunities. I think it’s a marvelous time of life … I would always urge them to think in terms of serving other people.”

Hear the full interview with Dr. Weller.

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