Spartan Proud: Teaching the world’s leaders how to be remarkable.
Spartan Proud is sponsored by Mason County Central Schools. This series features alumni of Mason County Central telling their stories. Today we feature Kevin Eikenberry, class of 1980.
Kevin Eikenberry will make two rare professional appearances in Mason County on Tuesday, April 18. See below for details.
By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.
CUSTER TOWNSHIP — Kevin Eikenberry owns a leadership training and consulting firm, The Kevin Eikenberry Group, based in Indianapolis that includes some of the top companies and organizations in the United States and the world. He was recently ranked as one of the top 100 leadership speakers in the world. He is a published author. His client list includes American Red Cross, Chevron, Discover Card Financial Services, Great Lakes Energy, Deere & Co., Toyota, NASA, Cinergy, the U.S. government, and many more. He has consulted in over 30 countries. But when it comes down to it, he’s just a northern Michigan farm boy who loves to spend time on the family farm on East Conrad Road.
“I was blessed to have teachers at Mason County Central who did a number of things that played a role in my professional life,” Kevin says. “I had the chance to take ‘adult roles’ in situations because I had teachers who trusted me enough to give me that chance. I had teachers who cared about me, and still do! While in school I had close relationships with a number of them – it was clear that they cared about my success in the classroom, but also cared about more than that.
“They took time to help me think about what the college experience would be like, and prepared me for it. I have seen several over the many years since I graduated and all of those interactions have been positive and supportive. Without question, the teacher who I learned the most from then, and far beyond was Mike Keenan. I was proud to have him as a mentor and to count him as a friend today.”
Kevin says his teachers at MCC taught him life skills.
“The best teachers are teaching beyond their prescribed course, like “Boots” Newkirk teaching and inspiring interest in current events; knowing that today’s current events are tomorrow’s history, Gerry Genter showing that when you trust a class they can make good decisions for themselves, Mike Keenan being willing to let an interested student study something not available in the curriculum in independent study format. Those are just three examples.
“I had teachers who showed me what it means to be an effective instructor. Since being a teacher is part of my role today, I was fortunate to have some great examples – Jan Keenan, Steve Bishop are just two beyond those I mentioned above.”
After graduating from MCC in 1980, Kevin attended Purdue University where he earned a bachelor’s of science degree majoring in agricultural mechanization.
“I wanted to study agriculture at the best place I could find, and chose Purdue. Without doubt, both then and now it is one of the finest colleges of agriculture in the world. Michigan State University is a great school too – it would have been closer and ‘easier’ because of location, and knowing other people there, for sure. Choosing Purdue allowed me to recreate myself if I wanted, with no one having any past experience with me. For me, it was a foundational experience, and one I will cherish forever.”
After college he worked for Chevron’s fertilizer division as a sales representative. From there he made his way to the company’s world headquarters in San Francisco and started working in the training and development division.
“I did that for three years and then decided to do it for myself,” he says. “I never liked working for someone else. It started out just me and now I have a team of 14 people plus trainers and coaches who work for us on a contracted bases.”
Kevin travels the world giving speeches and training people about leadership. He has written several books, co-authored another and has contributed to dozens more.
Going to a small school like MCC had its advantages but also made post high school life challenging, Kevin says.
“When I left MCC and went to Purdue, the world changed a lot. In the first semester or two there were some disadvantages – classes that weren’t an option here, had been taken by others in high school. Since I went to college, knowing I would have to work hard, that wasn’t really a disadvantage long. My kids have gone to very large high schools, while there were 119 in my graduating class. There are advantages to both, and for anything I ‘missed’ by being in a smaller high school, I could list five benefits from my high school experience: Having great teachers who care (which I had), and being a student who wants to learn and engage are more important than the size of the student body.”
Kevin grew up on the family farm southeast of Scottville. His father Phil was a pig farmer, also a graduate of MCC — class of 1960. Phil passed away unexpectedly in 2007 leaving the farm to his adult children. Today, Kevin and his sister, Paula Mendenhall (class of ’82) continue to own the farm, though Kevin and his wife, Lori, live in Indianapolis, and Paula and her husband, Grady, live in Texas. The families come together every summer, though to celebrate their father and the farm.
Kevin’s mother, Jan Wallis, and her husband John continue to live in Ludington. He also has several other relatives and friends who live in Mason County.
“We haven’t returned full time yet, but eventually Lori and I will retire here, building a house on a property we bought in Custer Township. While it is home for me, it is also where my wife wants to be too – one more reason I am blessed to have her as my bride of nearly 31 years.”
On Tuesday, April 18, Kevin will make two appearances in Mason County.
The first program, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. will be a discussion with local farmers about the challenges in leadership on the modern farm. He will be joined by Ludington-based attorney Carlos Alvardo who will discuss succession plans. The program is sponsored by Mason County Press and Mason County Farm Bureau. Tickets are $35 at the door. Lunch will be served. Reservations are required for those attending lunch. Please call 231-757-3202 or email [email protected] by 8 p.m. today.
At 6 p.m., Kevin will speak to local business and community leaders about “Leading and Championing Change.” The program will include beverages and appetizers. Tickets are $45 per person and may be purchased at the door. As a courtesy please call 231-757-3202 or email [email protected] to RSVP.
The program is sponsored by Mason County Press, Graystone Event Center at Holiday Inn Express of Ludington, Safety Decals, and Ludington Yacht Sales.
Both events are at the Graystone Event Center at the Holiday Inn Express of Ludington, located at the corner of US 10-31 and Brye Road in Amber Township.