They have been at Castleton through eight different Unites States presidents. They have seen Leavenworth hall burned down and then rebuilt, and saw a whole new sports complex built on campus.
“They are both among the most student orientated faculty at Castleton,” said their longtime friend and colleague Robert Gershon. “Both are great for the school and good friends of mine as well.”
Meet Bill Kuehn and John Gillen, two professors who have seen 42 and 43 years respectively of Castleton history happen right before their eyes.
“It’s a great place to work the students are great and the faculty is enjoyable to work with,” Kuehn said enthusiastically. “I love the area. Maybe my only complaint is it is getting too warm in the winter.”
Gillen and Kuehn began work at Castleton in 1970 and 1971, respectively, at a much smaller school that not many people knew about outside of Vermont.
“I knew everybody that worked here including dining hall staff,” Kuehn said. “It’s no longer the case anymore. Too many people to keep up with.”
To have such longevity at anything it takes hard work and being able to find reasons to stay. Gillen starts each day struggling to get out of bed between 7:30 and 8:30.
“I’m a night person,” he says. Every morning he has his cup of coffee and a hot breakfast of either a fried egg or oatmeal.
A cold shower helps wake him up, but he notes that he also tries to park as far away in the big parking lot as possible from his office in Leavenworth to help him shake his sleepiness.
“Waking up early is hard,” Gillen says. When he finally makes it to his office, depending on the day, he prepares himself for one of the three to four different classes he teaches including effective speaking, touchstones, moral dilemmas or great ideas.
About 28 years ago Gillen also started the Soundings program here at Castleton as a way to re-introduce students into the liberal arts.
“We want our students to pursue their vocational goals,” Gillen said. “We don’t want them to ignore other opportunities though and through Soundings we give them other possibilities to explore and be interested in.”
Soundings has grown enormously since it started now offering as many as 22 different events from music and lectures to dance troupes and interviews.
Gillen contends that one key to his success is staying in shape by going to the swimming pool two to three times a week as he has done for the last 20 years for both his mental and physical well-being.
“I enjoy what I do,” Gillen said with a smile. “A lot of people these days don’t like their jobs for whatever reason, but I like mine. It allows me the opportunity to implement my ideas and that is what keeps me going.”
For Kuehn, well, he likes to start his day with some cantaloupe, a cup of Joe, some whole wheat toast and the Rutland Herald. An avid skier, Kuehn will get up an hour and a half earlier than usual to get to the slopes and rip it up at Killington for an hour or so before making his 12-mile commute to school.
For the last 11 to 12 years, Kuehn has brought his FYS groups to West Haven where on the side of the road at a popular but illegal dumping spot they pick up trash. They break up into teams of pickers, baggers and recorders. Basically what they do is pick up all the trash and record what is being thrown out to see who is dumping what and what can be done to stop it.
“The students end up learning about different people,” Kuehn said. “It’s a good lesson in sociology actually and it’s a good way for them to bond.”
Also a practicing attorney with his law office at Castleton corners he will usually stop by before and after school just to check up on things. In the fall Kuehn usually has a full plate of classes teaching 15 credits worth
of classes that include research methods and sociology proctorship but in the spring he dials back to about 12 credits.
“My key to success is Balance,” Kuehn said with assertion. “You have to have your priorities straight, when you become overwhelmed at work your life can fall apart so you really want to balance out what you need to do with what you want to do.”
Both Gillen and Kuehn found what they were looking for at Castleton and haven’t looked back yet. The times may have changed and so has the campus but one constant has remained the same at Castleton over the last 40 years and that is John Gillen teachingwriting and speaking classes and Bill Kuehn teaching Sociology class.
“The students have been inspiration to be here,” Kuehn said. “I’ve never had a student make my life miserable, bothersome employees don’t last.”