“I can’t imagine a curriculum that would prepare me for life as well as the Industrial Arts program at Oswego from 1950 to 1953,” says Kenvyn Richards ’53. “I learned so much that was practical and it has served me well for the last 60 years.” It served him so well, that he made it his life’s work, first teaching in the public schools in the Middleburgh School District and later as professor of industrial arts, now called technology education, at his alma mater.
While teaching at Middleburgh, Richards decided to return to Oswego for his master’s. His thesis adviser, Professor Emeritus Charles Phallen, convinced him to earn a doctorate. When he finished his studies at the University of Maryland under the Defense Education Act, an opening at Oswego made it possible for Richards to return once again to the college he loved — this time as a faculty member.
His career at Oswego would span 15 years, from 1969 to 1984. He served as a student teacher supervisor and taught methods courses as well as those in woodworking and graduate studies.
Two sabbaticals changed his life. One, an opportunity to teach in public schools in Australia, would spur his lifelong love of travel, including visits to each state in the Union and every continent except Antarctica. The other sabbatical, to the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry to study wood science, fed his love of forestry. Today, the arboretum this Cornell master forest owner carefully tends on four acres in nearby New Haven, is home to 85 different species of trees. His two passions sometimes collide, such as when a chestnut oak acorn gathered on a scouting trip to the Gettysburg Battlefield became a tree in his yard.
Richards was an active faculty member, serving on the Public Ceremonies Committee and as a delegate to Faculty Assembly. He takes the most pride in his former students and their accomplishments, including Tom Simmonds ’84, M ’88, who is associate vice president of facilities at Oswego.
As an undergraduate, living in Splinter Village with his young family, Richards helped found the first cross-country team. After starting as a club sport, he circulated petitions to make it a team and can recall running up to then Student Council President Herb Van Schaack ’51 in the hallway of Sheldon Hall, to give him the paperwork. He would later coach cross-country at Middleburgh, and one of his outstanding runners later won the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship.
An active member of his community, Richards devoted two decades to adult scouting leadership and 10 years as a 4-H committee member. He volunteered for 27 years with the Dollars for Scholars program in nearby Mexico, N.Y., helping to raise more than $325,000 in scholarship money for local high school seniors. He served on the Mexico Board of Education for 14 years, including eight as president, before retiring from the board in 1994.
Always an outdoorsman, Richards is a proud member of the Adirondack Forty-Sixers, having climbed 46 peaks over 4,000 feet. He loves gardening and woodworking, but most of all he enjoys spending time with his wife of 62 years, Jane, and their children, Amy ’73, Douglas, Patricia, Audrey ’81 and David. The family Oswego tradition continues with one of Richards’ nine grandchildren, Scott ’05.
A loyal alumnus, Richards was honored by the Oswego Alumni Association with its Lifetime Award of Merit in 1994.
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