20 Under 40

20 under 40: Ken Oliver

Ken Oliver for 20 Under 40 Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017, at the Whig. | H-W Photo/Phil Carlson
Phil Carlson 1|
Posted: Sep. 24, 2017 1:45 pm

Ken Oliver is a busy fellow these days at Quincy University, coordinating programs, chairing committees and contributing various manuscripts for numerous professional publications.

"I do a lot," he says, with a smile.

Oliver says his wife, Kelli, occasionally hints it might be a good idea for her husband to consider cutting back a little.

But don't count on that happening anytime soon.

Oliver is committed -- and passionate -- about seeing QU succeed. That commitment led him to being named to head the strategic planning committee that helped establish the framework for the university's financial recovery. At this time, about a year ago, QU divulged it had a $5 million budgetary shortfall. Soon afterward, a financial recovery plan was hatched, with Oliver helping establish the developmental tone.

"I want to see this university be successful," he said.

Oliver's vision, and that of QU officials, has now moved from developing a strategic plan to implementing all that goes with such an effort.

Oliver says it is important for all constituencies, both within the university and community alike, to "buy in" to the challenges the school will face in the coming months and years as it moves toward righting its ship.

"This has been a big deal," Oliver said of what has transpired over the last year.

Make no doubt, Oliver was a perfect man with the perfect mindset to be put in charge of such a task. No goal or task has ever intimidated Oliver.

"I value the journey," he said.

Age: 39.

Family: Wife, Kelli; children, Kaden, 10, Kenna, 9, Kelsey, 5.

Education: Lafayette High School in St. Louis, Southeast Missouri State University, SIU-Carbondale.

How are you involved in your community? I have coached a number of different sports (at the junior level) over the past seven years, moderated events for the Human Rights Commission and was a keynote speaker several years ago for Martin Luther King Day at First Baptist Church.

What is your job, what do you do and what do you like best about it? I am an associate professor and graduate counseling program director at Quincy University. I also serve on the board of directors for the Illinois Counseling Association's philanthropic foundation, serve as co-editor of the Journal of Counseling in Illinois and chaired numerous committees at the university and national professional level.

What is a typical workweek like? I do most of my teaching at night, so my days are usually filled with classroom prep and meetings and it's when I do my writing for various publications.

What was your first job, and what do you remember about it? It was an office job in St. Louis city, and I worked with birth certificates. It was part of a youth employment program. I had no real idea of what I was doing, but I got to meet a lot of interesting people. John Goodman of the "Roseanne" show once came in. He's a native of St. Louis.

How do you balance everything? When you are passionate about the things you do, you get things done.

Which person has influenced you the most and why? I was raised by my great aunt, Mary Johnson. I learned a lot from her about strength and perseverance. She is now 96, and I still talk to her every day.

Have you ever failed at something? (Care to give details? How did you recover?) I fail all the time. That makes the successes so rewarding.

What does success mean to you? For me, success is feeling I put my best into something. I value the journey more than any trophy.

What was your proudest professional moment? When I earned my master's degree at age 22. I am the first person in my family with a college education.

What is your favorite stress buster/leisure time diversion? I like to lift weights. Coaching also helps relieve stress. I really enjoy coaching.

What is the biggest need in your community? Civil discourse -- people need to be talking about challenging issues and trying to understand one another.

What gives you reason for optimism in your community? I've seen people coming together on issues to get them done

If you could go back in time and give advice to yourself when you were in high school, what would it be? To have fun, work harder as a student, try not to take yourself too seriously and be present in the moment.

If you could add a few more hours to the day, how would you spend them? Spend time with my family.

Do you live by any mantra or saying? "What would old me say about the me now?"

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