As I entered Dr. Tom Kent's office the first thing I noticed was a framed tattered navy blue sweatshirt over his bookshelf. The story that ensued was not one anyone could forget after hearing.
"I was pronounced clinically dead from a cardiac arrest. I was jogging on a dead-end road, three days before Christmas the winter of 1995. There was not a soul around. My heart stopped, and I fell onto the side of the road," explains Kent, an associate professor in the Business School's Management and Entrepreneurship Department.
He continues to describe the story behind the peculiar decorations: "There was one guy working on the private property of Our Lady of Mercy Convent on James Island. He was laying cable and noticed me lying on the side of the road. He felt for a pulse and listened for a heartbeat; when he found neither he started CPR and called 911. The rest is history."
Kent had experienced a heart fibrillation, which caused oxygen to stop flowing to his head, eventually causing him to pass out. A neighbor of Kent's went to the site of the accident and found the ratty old sweatshirt. She framed the sweatshirt that he had worn for over 15 years for him. When asked if it was specifically placed in his office for a reason and not at home or elsewhere he said, "Well, it didn't really go with the decor at home and didn't look right hanging over the fireplace so my office was the next option."
Kent's sense of humor is hard not to notice when you start chatting with him and his love of teaching and his students is profound. "I'm here for the students; it is my favorite thing about teaching," he says. "I have been teaching for decades, it never gets old."
Kent earned his Ph. D. in Organizational Psychology at Case Western Reserve University and began teaching as an adjunct professor at the College of Charleston in 1975 and became full-time in 1999. The college contacted him to teach a course while he was running Cummins Engine Company locally, now the largest diesel engine company in the world. He was hooked on teaching and has been associated with the college ever since.
Along with Cummins Engine, Kent has held executive positions at Scott Paper Co. He has also worked at Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. He also was a captain in the U.S. Air Force. Since 1985, he has been president of his own international organizational effectiveness consulting firm, Tom Kent Associates.
Kent, who was the founding chair of the Department of Management and Entrepreneurship, currently teaches Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management. Kent has been published in the Encyclopedia of Public Administration and Public Policy, Leadership and Organizational Development Journal, International Journal of Management, Journal of Small Business Strategy, Management Decision, and many other scholarly journals and publications.
When asked what advice he would give to today's college students in this economy he says: "Start looking for a job now. It is never too early to get set up for after graduation. Find a little book on finding a job and do research on what you can do and how to find the perfect job for you. Finally, interviews are key. People know that they are going to hire you in the first few seconds; you have to be a good actor for one minute. You have to look great and be great."
Away from campus Kent has many hobbies and interest: golf, fishing, kayaking, sailing, and tennis. He has sailed with a friend to Bermuda and says it was one of the most enjoyable experiences of his life. He still loves to run, but on a treadmill at the gym. He says, "Getting old is hell, enjoy your youth while you have it."
(Emily Castelli contributed to this article.)