December 10, 2019
I first met Ken when he came to Bloomington to interview for the associate dean of international services position. I vividly remember lunch in the Tudor Room with him; he was professional, warm and empathetic, and there was even a touch of humor. His academic background, work as a diplomat, and experience at Washington University were excellent credentials, and I was delighted that he agreed to come to Indiana University. I was director of the African Studies Program at the time, and soon after his arrival, I began seeking his advice about international students and visiting scholars. Throughout the years, I relied on his knowledge of visas, financial aid, and dealing with personal and family crises. Ken always saw the person behind the need; he followed procedures but saw that there was a human being involved who needed guidance and assistance, and he provided this. Because of his leaderships in the field at the national level, he was an expert on the implications of new regulations, directions and trends, and he helped to lead the office in a period of growth and expansion.
A tragic event on July 4th 1999 highlights Ken’s effectiveness, concern, and grace. An incoming Korean graduate student, Won Jon-Yoon, was outside of the Korean United Methodist Church waiting for a service to begin, when he was shot twice in the back by a white supremacist. The death of this young man, so full of promise, shocked all at IU. Ken contacted me and I joined him in front of the church where he was already dealing with security, consoling students, and assuring them about their safety. The following days were filled with more difficult situations that Ken helped to manage on behalf of IU -- the arrival of the grieving parents, the gathering at the Bloomington hospital of a large numbers of Korean students who wanted to assist in some way, and the sadness of the memorial service. The media was a constant presence, especially when the U.S. Attorney General, Janet Reno, came to Bloomington to speak at the Musical Arts Center and walk in a candlelight procession of thousands of local people, students, and academics in affirmation of values of tolerance. Ken’s handling of this tragedy epitomizes his leadership and compassion.
As dean, I spoke to Ken daily, and because of the large number of international students, there were always issues that required expert knowledge and a steady hand. Ken and his staff were always there to provide these.
I traveled to Asia with Ken on different occasions. The first trip was to Japan, Singapore, and Malaysia with President Myles Brand. Ken and I went ahead of the president to Tokyo. His contacts and knowledge proved to be invaluable. Above all, his conviviality and humor eased the stress of the days filled with airports, formality, protocol, and procedures.
Ken was also part of the first international alumni reunion held in Chang Mai, Thailand in 1999. IU graduates from different parts of Asia were in attendance. Ken knew almost all of them, and they reached out to him with friendship and special memories of their time as students at IU.
Because of his Foreign Service work in Burma, Ken had a special commitment to Burmese students and refugees. He was instrumental in helping with political asylum for some of them, placement in U.S. universities and extending friendship to Burmese communities in the Midwest.
Indiana University is legendary because of the many ways in which it supports, fosters, and guides students from all over the world. Ken helped to set in place and expand this great tradition.