Kenneth R. Schwenk speaks a lot of languages. His first language was Norwegian, learned from his grandmother who acted as nanny for his busy parents. Along the way, he learned English, French, German, and “a bit of Japanese, Greek, Italian, and Russian.”
Born in Brooklyn, NY, Ken graduated from Fort Hamilton High School in Brooklyn before earning a B.S. in Engineering and Applied Science from The Cooper Union in Manhattan. He was awarded a National Defense Education Fellowship that led to an MS in Engineering and Applied Science from Yale University.
Ken’s 45-year business career began with 13-years as an engineer in the defense industry. He participated in “such programs as the optically stabilized landing system for aircraft carriers; various aerial camera programs; and camera systems that provided 1 million frames of photography per second for both commercial and military applications.”
“For another 12 years I managed marketing and sales for a manufacturer of Broadcast TV and Broadcast radio equipment.” Ken continues, “My career permitted my wife and I to attend various broadcasting events, including the Olympics, award dinners and broadcast events such as the 2000 election night at NBC studios in Rockefeller Center.
For the final 20 years of the 45-year career, Ken says in his understated way, “I managed (as President or CEO) the financial turnaround of 5 different companies which manufactured high tech equipment.
Upon retirement, Ken and Joyce, his wife of 40-years, moved to Chocowinity.
Ken spends time writing and reflecting on his varied career. “We have lived in some very wonderful small towns in New York, Illinois, Maryland, and Utah. We have 5 children and 9 grandchildren who live in the Midwest or on the East Coast.”
“The best thing that my wife and I have accomplished is to insure that our children had our love and guidance and a good education. They have rewarded us by becoming successful in their chosen fields and with the fact that they are encouraging their children in the same fashion that we encouraged them.”
Ken continues his reflection. “As a boy and young man, I was an avid reader. Starting with Mark Twain (my boyhood heroes were Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn), I ploughed through science fiction (Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein) and the Russian novelists (Dostoevsky and Tolstoy). My paternal grandmother started me on mystery novels which I still have a strong taste for.”
“Writing has always been an avocation that I never had the time for until I retired. I started writing some poetry and enjoyed the challenge and perhaps wrote a few fairly good poems. But my concern about the direction our country and where its people are heading have caused me to take stock in the educational, governmental, and social results of the past twenty years. I have started researching and writing of these trends with the thought of compiling the essays into a book At some point when I feel that the essays are up to my own standards I will seek publication.”
In addition to writing, Ken plays golf and bridge and reads a variety of fiction and non-fiction. He serves as a volunteer business counselor for SCORE (a national volunteer organization that helps nurture small businesses).
Now back to all those languages. Does Ken write and read in different languages? Did he just use spoken language for business purposes?