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Professor Patrick Harwood
Department of Communication


Tom Kent
Management and Marketing

Tom Kent
Professor Tom Kent

Running's Impact on Mr. Management
by Emily Castelli

"I was literally dying. I was running 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 into a ditch," explains Dr. Tom Kent, chair of the business school's management and marketing department.

Kent says this while describing the significance of a tattered navy blue sweatshirt framed in his office. He continues to describe the story behind the peculiar decorations by saying, "There was one guy working on the private property I was running on; doing some sort of maintenance work and he found me dead in the ditch. He called 911 and 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. Later that afternoon, his wife's friend went to the site where Kent was running and found the sweatshirt he had worn for the last 35 years while running on the side of the road, cut down the middle. "They had to cut my sweatshirt down the middle of my chest, so that they could use defibrillators to re-start my heart," he says.

Growing up outside Philadelphia, Kent graduated from Lebanon Valley College, located near Harrisburg. He then got his first master's in counseling psychology at St. Mary University in San Antonio. Later he enrolled in Case Western Reserve in Cleveland where he earned a master's in industrial psychology and a doctorate in organizational psychology. Kent also found time during all this globe trotting to attend the United States Air Force Academy and was a police officer in New Haven, Conn.

Before becoming a full-time professor at College of Charleston six years ago, Kent dedicated more than 30 years of his life to the business world. Just around the corner in North Charleston, Kent ran Cummins Engine Company, now the largest diesel engine company in the world. There he would receive the title World-Wide Director of Managing Excellence, overseeing the opening of manufacturing plants throughout the world.

From there he transferred jobs to become vice president of human resources and planning for Scott Paper Company. Kent chuckles, "I went from making hard and tough diesel engines, to 'soft and pretty' paper products."

Kent commented that he liked the variation of these jobs and the traveling they entailed, but that he "didn't do much other than work during that time." However, he was somehow able to find the time to be do some adjunct teaching at C of C starting in 1975, teaching a class here or there when he could manage it. He and his wife of more than 40 years have no children of their own but play significant roles in their nieces and nephews lives.

When asked to describe what he feels is the most important characteristic about a successful organization or company, he responds, "motivation." Kent explains that he "feels people are basically under-challenged in their work place." People go to work and not much is expected or demanded of them. He says, "in order to be successful, an organization must be structured in a way that they motivate its employees more than competing organizations motivate theirs."

A student in Kent's Human Resource Management class can concur that Kent's "motivation theory" has proved to be very helpful. One particular project asks students to re-write all of the Human Resources policies and procedures of a mock company of their choice. Senior Richard Hull says, "This project has been very helpful and interesting because it forces you to understand Human Resources in a very realistic and applicable sense."

Since retiring from the business world, Kent finally has time to enjoy sailing and golf. Recently, Kent sailed from Charleston to Ireland on a friend's sailboat; he noted that a nine-day trek to Bermuda (caused by a lack of wind) was one of the most pleasant experiences of his life. And if you ever get the chance to golf in one of Kiawah's fine golf courses, Kent might be your starter on the weekends. "It's a great way for someone like me to be around the one of my biggest passions and get to play for free at some of the country's best courses," he says.

Having survived a near death experience has caused Kent to address life with a different attitude. Reflecting on his eye opening experience, Kent concludes, "You got to do the best you can do. Do it today, because it might not be here for tomorrow."