Duke Kuehn Oral History Interview


Duke Kuehn Oral History Interview
6 July 2021
12 July 2021
20 July 2021
28 July 2021
Duke Kuehn
Anthony Zaragoza
extracted text
Duke Kuehn
Interviewed by Anthony Zaragoza
The Evergreen State College oral history project
July 6, 2021
Zaragoza: Good morning. I’m here with Duke Kuehn [pronounces it as Keen], or is it [pronounces it as
Koon]? How do you say your name, Duke?
Kuehn: Well, that’s where we can start. In German, it’s [German pronunciation]. It means brave or
bold. I think it actually means risk taking. When all these people came to the United States, they didn’t
want people to think they were Jewish, so they didn’t want to be called [pronounces it as Koon], they
wanted to be called [pronounces it as Keen]. Throughout the Midwest, when I fly to Milwaukee, they
know how to pronounce my name. So, as I tell people, I answer to almost anything that begins with a K.
It’s close enough for me.
Zaragoza: Wonderful. It’s a pleasure to have you with us here on July 6, 2021. It’s really an honor to be
talking with you today. I just want to welcome you to the Oral History Project.
Kuehn: I’m excited.
Zaragoza: Fantastic. Duke, why don’t you start by telling us about your early life, your parents, you
early upbringing, your early schooling.
Kuehn: Sure. I was raised in California. I was born, I think, five days after the atom bomb dropped in
Japan. My father was in the Navy at the Jacksonville Naval Air Station in Florida. Via Iowa, they came to
California before I was a year old. I was in northern California until I was in the third grade. Then we
moved to southern California.
My dad was the hardest-working man I ever knew, but he was fundamentally a workingman. He
worked at Douglas Aircraft for many years. He worked his way up and he had some fairly high technical
skills, but in the ‘60s, the defense industry went through a variety of stumbles. He got laid off over and
over and over, so he made a major mid-career change and became a furniture salesman, of all things,
for Sears Roebuck, which he was very good at.
My family was kind of an odd family in the sense that my dad grew up on a farm, came from a
farm, rural people. He had a high school education but nothing beyond that. He was certainly not very
intellectual. Hard worker. Dedicated worker.
My mother was very well educated. She’d been to Vassar. Started a nursing degree. Came
from a very wealthy family in New England. How the two of them got hooked up in the middle of World

War II, I never quite understood, but they were very much in love with each other. Passionately in love
with each other. But they were real contrasts.
My mother was very intellectual, very well educated, very much interested in the arts, very
much a reader, and my dad was none of those things. My dad’s greatest satisfaction was to take a
Sunday afternoon and go work on his car. But they had a marriage that lasted, and they died in their
nineties within six months of each other.
My mother had a son. I had a half-brother from her previous marriage, which was kind of, in
those days, an odd circumstance in its own regard. My brother was older than I—I think 13 years—so
we were not particularly close. In fact, he graduated from high school and went to the Marine Corps
before we moved to southern California.
He was kind of an odd guy, I think. There was a family estrangement and he divorced himself
from his mother. I never saw him after I was 13. Left me very insecure for the rest of my life about
relationships. I realized no matter how intimate they were, they could end. It was devastating to my
mother, who put a lot of pressure on me as the remaining son to be “the” son.
I had a good relationship. My mother would have given me anything. She made huge sacrifices
for me to have the opportunities I did when I was a young man. As I said before, my father supported
us, even under very hard economic circumstances at times.
So, that’s kind of how I grew up. I was a happy kid. As in that piece that I sent you, very much
an only child. Learned early on to be self-sufficient in entertainment, taking care of myself, playing with
myself. Very imaginative. Rather artistic.
Went through high school without a particular ambition. It was a given I was going to college.
What I was going to do with that, I was never sure. In the piece that I sent you, I became a sportswriter
very early. I thought that was going to be my career. Won a substantial work scholarship to the
University of Redlands, which is a very good liberal arts college. Small, 1,500 students. It was a
wonderful place for me. I had a wonderful educational experience.
Fell under the wing of a mentor, a guy named Bill Klausner, who really was a father in many
ways my dad had never been a father. Very supportive, very loving, very caring. He did much to
advance my professional career.
I ended up going to graduate school, and as I told many people over the years, I got on at
kindergarten and I got off at PhD. I didn’t have any idea I’d ever get off or finish it. I finished all my
coursework for a PhD by the time I was 25. Finished the dissertation a few years later.


Made a huge mistake. I’m a rather competitive person. I respond well to those kinds of
challenges. Not a particularly good athlete, but a very competitive person. For graduate school, I ended
up going to a very, very strong graduate program, as you know, at the University of Washington. In
those days, it was probably one of the top 10 in sociology. It was certainly distinct among graduate
programs in sociology by having an extraordinarily strong emphasis in quantitative methods and
statistics, which is not my forte at all. But to survive, I had to get good at it. I learned it and became
fairly competent in it.
When I went to the University of Washington, I had every intent when I got my PhD of coming
back and returning to a liberal arts college, like Redlands. The idea that I would go to a large research
university just wasn’t part of my vision.
I got to the University of Washington, and it was a very competitive program. The people that I
worked with—faculty that I worked with—made it very clear that if you went to a small, liberal arts
college, you were a loser. Only losers did that. The real stars of the program went to large research
universities and got grants and cranked out publications. I didn’t like that, but I’m playing the game,
and that’s how you played the game.
I probably finished first or second in my class in my cohort, many of whom dropped out. Years
later, I realized that many of the people who dropped out of the graduate program were far more clever
and creative than I was. I just wouldn’t quit. [laughing]
I ended up getting a job at the least desirable of all the University of California campuses at UCRiverside.
Zaragoza: Can we pause there before we get to your first job. I’m curious about, are there any stories
that stand out from your undergraduate days that were formative for you? And/or your graduate
school days? Memories that you have that really shaped who you were to become as a scholar and
Kuehn: The piece I sent you really encapsulates very strongly my experience as an undergraduate
because I saw myself, as a young man, as a writer. I was a sportswriter, and I think I was pretty good at
it. I ended up forming a close bond with a professor, whose, motivations I’m still not quite clear about,
but imagine found it necessary to cut me down to what he considered to be the right size. He totally
destroyed, at 18 years old, my confidence as a writer. It was a devastating experience, and one I
probably still feel today, strangely enough.


It certainly affected my teaching; I made sure for the rest of my life that when I worked with
students, I never did anything close to that. I did nothing but encourage students, and encourage their
talents wherever it took them, and hoped that they would go further than I could ever imagine for them.
But Professor Mitchell had a profound experience on me. He also opened some doors of
opportunity that I am very grateful for, but he really, really, really crushed something that, at a point in
my life, was very vulnerable and very important. This is taking a darker tone already than I want it to. I
think you know me. I have a pretty good sense of humor about life.
That event, coupled with the loss of my brother when I was 13, shaped the dark side of me. Half
of me is Irish. You know how the Irish are. There’s always this dark thing over your shoulder you should
be watching out for. That rejection by my brother and that—I don’t even know what word to use for
what Mitchell did to me—did a lot to shape my life, for the better and for the worse, I guess.
I’ve always been one of those persons who believes that the qualities that you have in your
personality are both strengths and weaknesses, at the same time. If it hadn’t been for my brother’s
rejection, if it hadn’t been for Mitchell’s diminishment of my talents, I might not have worked as hard to
do many of the things I did in my life that were very positive, as a teacher, as a parent, as a husband, as
a friend. By the same regards, those are scars, and sometimes in my life, they’ve gotten in the way.
Those two things, both personally and educationally, really did a great deal to shape me.
My interest in sports and my interest in journalism was really the entryway into the social
sciences. When I decided I didn’t want to become a sportswriter—partly because of Mitchell’s
discouragement, and partly, as I mentioned in the piece I sent you—my job at Redlands was to run the
press box during the football season. I set it all up and would be there for a Saturday night game.
The reporter from the Redlands Daily Facts and the San Bernardino Sun, and occasionally,
somebody from one of the LA papers would come on out. These guys were drunk by the middle of the
second quarter. They were young and they were having a good time and they were drunk, and I looked
at that and I thought, geez, that’s not the life I imagined for myself. I could see myself sitting in the
press box covering the Dodgers or the Rams, but here these guys are out covering the University of
Redlands playing Whittier University, and the way they got through it was with a jug of whiskey on their
I can remember going home that summer and talking to my mother, telling her that I don’t want
to go in the direction that I’m going. I decided, in the same semester—the fall semester of my
sophomore year—I took Introduction to Psychology and Introduction to Sociology, both 101 courses. I
figured, well, I’ll immerse myself here and see what I like.

It probably was the personality of the teachers more than the subject matter itself that made
the difference. Klausner just blew me away with the quality of his thinking, his insight, and his way of
communicating. The guy who taught psychology was just a disaster. [laughing] If it had been reversed,
I’d probably be a clinical psychologist today, but I ended up in sociology. Klausner was a powerful
influence in my life.
Mitchell had gotten me into a program at Redlands called the “Able Student Program,” which
was an honors program. You had to write a thesis in your senior year to get honors. I ended up writing
a thesis. It was a little bit of experimental social psychology. It was quite better than much of the work
that I did later in my life. It was full of all sorts of youthful errors, but it was rather profound. I was
trying to create in a laboratory a social circumstance that came from the writing of a Nineteenth Century
sociologist, Émile Durkheim, called anomie, a state of social normlessness.
I tried to create this in a laboratory, and I kind of did. In the process, I learned a profound lesson
that in some ways echoes through the rest of my life about trust, about the necessity of trust in social
relationships. In fact, I still write about it today, about the necessity of trust in every social relationship,
from families and friendships up to governments and corporations.
I learned an early lesson, and developed a profound interest in the concept of social trust—what
it meant, how you achieved it, how you lost it, if you can regain it back, etc etc etc. Redlands provided
the opportunity for me to do that.
It provided one other opportunity, too. Because I was an Able student, I was able, or allowed, to
develop almost an individual major. I ended up with a major in sociology with a minor in English
literature. I was fascinated by literature, but I was extremely fascinated in drama, theater. Not so much
the acting of it but the reading of it.
I walked out of Redlands with what I treasure today as a wonderful education that opened door
after door after door after door, professionally and personally. It allowed me for the rest of my life to
pursue my curiosities wherever they took me, so I became absolutely obsessed with classical ballet for a
while. Studied, read everything, saw everything, visited everything. I actually dated a ballet dancer
from New York briefly.
Or Captain Cook and the voyages of exploration of the Pacific. The United States Navy in the
Second World War. All these little things, when you look at my bookshelf here, you’ll say, “This guy has
a lot of interests.” I’ve never considered myself an expert in any of those things, but I became
knowledgeable about them, that for a personal level, I felt like, oh, I kind of understand that now. I see
what that’s all about. I don’t need to know more.

Which, in its own regards, was my limitation as a scholar, because I came out of a liberal arts
college with a liberal arts conception. The idea that I would spend the rest of my life studying something
narrower and narrower and narrower and narrower. I couldn’t do it. I had no interest in doing it. I was
satisfied with becoming knowledgeable, but I’ve never needed to be an expert.
I’m just yammering on here. You’ve got to stop me. I’ll talk, I guarantee you. I’m an easy
Zaragoza: I appreciated where you were going, Duke, and I especially liked the stories that you told
from your undergraduate years. Can you tell a couple of formative stories from your graduate school
years? You mentioned the competitiveness. You mentioned becoming first or second in your class. Are
there some stories that illustrate the experiences you have that especially formed you as a teacher and
Kuehn: Oh, yeah. Many. The Sociology Department at the University of Washington was quite a place,
and it was not a good fit for me at all, except for the competitiveness. I won a huge, literally enormous,
scholarship to go there, partly from the advocacy of Bill Klausner. I won a National Defense Education
Act, four-year, full-ride scholarship to graduate school. Never had to work a second.
That was ironic because the National Defense Education Act fellowship came directly in the
middle of the Vietnam War. Same time I was being reclassified 1-A, I was being paid by the federal
government to go to graduate school in advancement of the national defense, a case I made to the
Selective Service without much success.
Graduate school stories. I tried to recapture the relationship I had with Bill Klausner with some
of the faculty. I ended up working very closely with two of them. My primary sponsor was a guy named
Clarence Schrag—may he rest in peace—and he was a very helpful, very nice, very generous man.
He was kind of a strange guy in some ways. He had been raised in a small Mennonite
community in Eastern Washington. He became very prominent. Schrag was the co-author, with a
couple of other guys, of the largest-selling sociology 101 textbook in the United States. He was notable
for having gotten involved as the Director of the Washington State Department of Corrections for a
But he had an extraordinary work ethic. He just believed that good work meant you got more
work, and I took it on. I piled it on. I can remember one time sitting in his office. You know how it is in
graduate school. I spent days in this guy’s office, and he was very generous of his time, very helpful. I
was talking to him about how here I am in this quantitative program where I’m learning the most
sophisticated and complicated statistical techniques for the analysis of human behavior, but in my own

style and in my own interests and in my approach, I was much more a qualitative sociologist. I was
much more interested in observation and in experience and narrative.
I remember Schrag looked at me in surprise. It was amazing but he said this, “You know, Duke,
you’re a much better statistician and quantitative analyst than you think you are. You’re not as good
qualitatively.” [laughing] I have not thought about that comment all these years, but it goes along with
the Bob Mitchell comment. I kept running into these mentors who directed me in funny ways. I guess it
all worked out all right. It turned out that those quantitative methods paid off big time later on in my
life. We’ll get to that. But I was left, again, insecure about my self-perception versus the perception of
the people who I was attempting to join.
I was fortunate in that—I was talking to my granddaughter about this the other day. She’s going
through the college experience. Whenever I was confronted with a choice in life, and I was fortunate to
be presented with many options. As you and I have talked about before, the concept of white privilege
is not at all foreign to me. I was born with 50 points right off the go, and I recognize there are many
people who have zero choices in life. I was fortunate enough, privileged enough, to be presented with
lots of choices in my life.
Whatever I was, I always chose the choice that opened more doors, which was the opposite of
most of my scholarly peers in college. They wanted to go narrower and narrower and narrower.
I had a conversation once I got out and I was teaching at UC-Riverside with a sociologist who
was a little bit older than I. Very ambitious. He was standing in my office just bullshitting and he said to
me, “You realize, Duke, the really important thing is who’s number one in sociology.” I looked at him,
stunned. I knew how ranking systems worked. I’d followed sports all my life. I had no idea that there
was a ranking system for sociologists, and that he aspired to be number one. I had no idea. I must have
been eighteen thousandth on it, probably. I just didn’t think in those terms.
My experience in graduate school was almost the opposite of my experience as an
undergraduate. It was focused and it was narrow, and it became narrower. But I had all sorts of
opportunities, and one of the opportunities I was given—and Schrag had access to the police records of
the Seattle Police Department for one whole year. I think it must have been violent crimes or something
like that. I was able to go through and do a qualitative statistical study of those records.
I came up with one of the first findings I had, and I actually got an early publication on it, my
first. I found that if you looked at the description that victims gave of their assailants, and then
compared those descriptions to the actual physical characteristics of the assailant when they were
captured or convicted, I was curious if there was a discrepancy.

This is probably my significant contribution to the social sciences. I found that, of course, there
was a discrepancy. People tended to describe their assailants as physical larger than they really were.
Rather consistently. I’ve forgotten this, so I might not be absolutely correct but close, but recollection
was that when I looked at the description that white victims made of black assailants, the
overestimation was even greater.
In my early twenties, I all of a sudden recognized right away that there was an inherent bias in
terms of the way in which black offenders were compared to white offenders. I got a couple of
footnotes in a couple of places because of that. That was a significant moment for me, doing that data
analysis, publishing it. I got a trip to Hawaii through the Pacific Sociological Association to present the
paper. This was my third year of graduate studies. That was really cool. It was fun all the way around.
Zaragoza: Is this the 1969-1970 period?
Kuehn: Yeah, I think probably 1970.
Zaragoza: Okay, so making a significant contribution also to an area of the literature that my guess was
[it was] completely under-researched and understudied.
Kuehn: Yeah. Who cared? The other thing that I recall most significantly from those four years in
Seattle was that the program was advanced in this regard. It required its graduate students to teach
one year. That also freed them from having to teach sections of Soc 101, but it was a great experience.
I was given, in my third year of graduate school, the opportunity to teach three sections of Soc 101.
It was one hell of a year, because, again, we’re in the middle of the Vietnam War. I’m pretty
sure this was the same year of Kent State, or certainly plenty of other things like this.
Zaragoza: I think that was the year that the UW football team stopped that game in protest. I’m pretty
sure that was 1970. I could have that wrong, but there was a lot going on.
Kuehn: It could be. Almost every other day, the Black Student Union launched a major demonstration
on campus. I always laugh because the Sociology Department was at one end of the building, and I think
the Anthropology Department was the other end of Savery-Guthrie Hall. If the demonstrating students
were coming through the Sociology end of the building, you would see dozens of graduate students
exiting the other end of the building carrying their dissertation materials, letting the demonstration
past, and then we’d all return and put our stuff safely away again.
It was a significant time because I could not—and I wouldn’t have anyhow—but even if I had
wanted to, I could not avoid touching upon the issues and current events that had either to do with race
relations, or civil disobedience, or the war. It was the year that I honestly believe we were shut down
for a week in the middle of all that. It might have been around the time of Kent State.

I was open. I was not a by-the-book teacher, even in my first effort ever, so I would open myself
up to questions, and students would ask me. What do you think? What’s this all about?
I can remember I had a student—a young black man—who sat in the front row, and he was just
all over me all the time. I can remember, in a kind and gentle way, he started this one day. I can see
him. I can see the hall I was in. I finally said—I forget what his name was—Bob—“I’ll tell you what, Bob.
Come on up here. Come on up.” “Why, ah-ah-ah?” “Get up here. Come on. I tell you what. You come
on up here and you teach the class, and I’ll sit down and listen to you.” [laughing] He didn’t take my
It was a very frothy, very heady time politically. At the same time, I’m fighting off getting
drafted, which is a little story in its own regard. I had injured my back playing tennis in high school—
injured it rather badly. At Redlands, I wasn’t going to play competitively, but I was certainly going to
play recreationally. It got worse and worse and worse, and it got to the point, when I got to graduate
school, my back was really in bad shape. What’s graduate school? It’s sitting in class for hours and
hours and hours and hours. The pain was just enormous.
Independent of the whole issue of the draft—well before—I finally ended up seeing an
orthopedic guy in Seattle. He prescribed a back brace. This was right after John F. Kennedy and his back
brace. I learned how to put on this rather cumbersome back brace with all these snaps and hooks and
Sure enough, I get classified 1-A. I go see my orthopedic guy and he writes me a letter. I didn’t
want to screw around. I could have held off this whole process by asking for the physical to be set up in
Seattle, but I decided, no, I’m going back home to Orange County. Let’s get this done and get it over
I had every confidence that I wouldn’t get drafted because of this back problem, which was in
no way at all fake. It was real. It was so bad that—I was still playing tennis, stupidly, competitively, I still
played tennis—to be able to play tennis, I would have to take, I don’t know, four, six Tylenol just to get
on the court, much less move around afterwards. I’d come out of the shower and the top part of my
body would be this far off to the side from the lower part of my body. [laughing]
I go ahead and I fly down to southern California and stayed with my parents and go for my draft
physical. I took a bus from Anaheim up to LA and go through this whole thing. They get to the point
where all of us were in this room and somebody says, “Anybody here have any medical papers or
anything that suggest you have a problem?” I’m the only one who raised my hand. I presumed
everybody else left the room and got on buses and headed to Vietnam.

I go in and they had me going into an examination room. This is truly one of the cardinal
moments of my life. It’s 3:30 in the afternoon on a Monday or Tuesday in southern California. This doc
comes in. He’s got a clipboard. Kind of a sleezy-looking guy. He just didn’t look very much like a doc.
He asked me a couple of questions, looked at the letter that the orthopod had given me. He said to me,
“Take your brace off.” This was a trick. “Put it back on.” People could take them, off but they didn’t
know how to put them back on. I put them back on. I’d been doing it for a couple years now.
I’m sitting on the edge of an examination table and he’s standing. I can see it like it was 10
minutes ago. He stands, he’s got a clipboard, he’s got a pen over at the board. I looked at this guy and I
say, in measured tones, “You know, you make the wrong decision here, I’m going to spend three days in
basic training. I’m going to be so badly injured that I’m going to be medically discharged. The
government of the United States is going to pay for my support the rest of my life.” I pointed at him.
“And it’s going to be your fault.” I’m not bullshitting. Just like that.
I’m not a very good poker player. I’m holding a pair of deuces and I’m calling this guy’s shit. He
didn’t say anything. He scribbled something on a piece of paper, hands it to me, and walks out of the
room. Not a word.
In those days, you knew the draft code. You knew what all these codes meant. I looked at this
thing and it says 3-R. I’d never heard of a 3-R. I get dressed. I go out in the hallway, and I see a
sergeant. I say, “Excuse me, sir. I don’t know what this means.” He says, “You’ve got three months to
get more medical evidence.” I’ll take this.
I rode the bus back home to see my parents. Fly back to Seattle. Go see my orthopod. “Geez,
how did they screw up like that? I’ll write you another letter.” In the meantime, shit, Tony, I’m in a
statistical program. Right? So, I start collecting data. I started collecting data about every time I had
the slightest pain, whatever I’m doing, whatever circumstance. I come back and see my orthopedist and
I say, “Look at this! There’s some correlations here. Every time”—I don’t know—"I carry out the trash,
or every time I play golf, or whatever, I get pain here and pain there.” “That’s pretty good stuff.”
He was really impressed. I was really impressed because, honest-to-god, it was the first time I
had ever used statistics to make an argument, and this argument is about as critical as I could ever want.
Zaragoza: That’s right.
Kuehn: It is just before Christmas, and they transfer my physical up to Seattle—I’m not going down
there again. No fucking way. They transfer it up to Seattle. It’s a dark, rainy morning. I drive over to
somewhere in north Seattle. Brand-new facility. Go in. Go through the whole process. Blah blah blah.


Get to the same point. Sitting in a room with a bunch of people. “Does anybody here have additional
medical evidence?” All the rest get up and get on buses to Vietnam.
I got up and I go into this guy’s office. I don’t go into an examination room. Young Army doc,
who’s sitting there across from me. He looks at the letter and he says—I forget what my orthopedist’s
name was, let’s say Zaragoza—“Oh, Dr. Zaragoza. He’s a great guy, isn’t he?” I go, “Yeah.” He says,
“Good enough for me. 1-Y.” That meant I could only be drafted in the case of an extraordinary national
I walked out of there after two hours. Drove home. All over. Incredible story, from my
perspective. It’s difficult even thinking about it today.
The only thing that I remember doing is before I drove home, I went downtown. Do you
remember the Bon Marche? Have you lived here long enough to remember?
Zaragoza: Yeah.
Kuehn: Okay. I went into the Bon Marche just before Christmas, and I was looking around the book
section. I love maps. I love exploration stuff. Rand McNally, I think, had just issued a brand-new, huge
atlas of the world. In those days, I think it cost 50 bucks, which was a lot.
Zaragoza: One of those that’s like 2 X 3. It’s like table sized.
Kuehn: Absolutely. That’s exactly what it is.
Zaragoza: Yeah, I know what you’re talking about.
Kuehn: I still have it. It has an inscription in it. I had written my name. I wrote the date with the date
of that examination. I never want to forget this date. I still have that atlas. It’s a beautiful atlas.
Graduate school was scary. I’ve always been afraid of failing. I never have, but I was consciously
afraid of it. Playing a very, very high-stakes game at a very, very high-stakes time. Ended up getting, by
the standard of my colleagues, a great job. I won. I won the game.
I lost a lot of myself. I think this was part of your question is that those experiences of
compromising who I was to win the game just had a profound impact on me, as a person and as a
teacher. I felt that almost the minute I arrived at UC-Riverside and began to rehabilitate myself.
Coming to Evergreen—not so much Evergreen but leaving a publish-or-perish tenure track to go
to a small liberal arts college—in this case, a crazy, ditsy liberal arts college—was suicidal in some ways.
The first quarter I was at Evergreen, I had a student who was the son of one of my professors at
Washington. He came in one Monday and he said, “Dr. Duke, I went home to see my dad this weekend.
There was a dinner party.” And he named five or six people who were all I’d studied with. He said, “You
were a major topic of conversation.” I said, “Oh, really?” He said, “Yeah. They all couldn’t figure out

what went wrong. “What happened to this guy? He left that tenure-track position at UC-Riverside to go
to Evergreen, for chrissake! Is he okay?” [laughing] In their minds, it was a kind of professional suicide.
I’ve got to finish that story. Years later—years later—I forget who it was. I think it was a dean at
Evergreen whose brother-in-law, I think, was the Dean of the School of Education at the UW. Somehow
or another they all got connected, and this guy at the U calls me. He wants to interview me about the
faculty position.
I go and have lunch with him, and we started talking. I’m all grown up now and I’m all
professional and I’m all squared away. I’m honest with this guy. I said, “Come on, you’re wasting your
time. You’re never going to hire me. Even if you want to hire me, your colleagues aren’t going to hire
me. Look at my resume. I’ve got three publications, I think. I’ve done a ton of work. I’m not only a
great teacher—"
At that time, I was working very closely with the school districts in the State of Washington and
knew everything about school boards in the State of Washington. “I have no doubt that I could be
incredibly valuable to your program. I can offer your students a practical experience rooted deeply in
solid social science theory that nobody else can. I guarantee you. But you’re never going to hire me.
It’s not going to happen. You’re wasting your time. Come on, it’s not going to happen.”
I actually had a kind of redemption in that, I guess, to say, “Look, I’m turning down your tenure.
Even if you give it to me, I wouldn’t take it.”
Zaragoza: Duke, I was curious if there were some stories from UC-Riverside that you also wanted to
relate that lead you toward Evergreen, because it’s an interesting movement. You go from a liberal arts
undergrad to a research one graduate program, to a research one teaching gig, back to a liberal arts
college. Maybe some things happened there at UC-Riverside that you used to open those doors to
Kuehn: I’m not so sure of that as much as it is getting back in touch with yourself. The very first day I
moved into my office at UC-Riverside, it was set up in the way that most offices probably are in most
research universities. You walked into the office and there were chairs for people to sit in. There was a
desk, and the desk was turned away from the front door, and there was a workbench off to the side. I
know it wasn’t comfortable for me.
I immediately took that desk and turned it around so it faced the door, so when people came in,
I could welcome them. That was stupid. The reason they were turned around is so you could work your
ass off to get publications to get tenure, not to sit there and talk to students.


So, I turned it around originally and I became enormously popular among students in the
program. I liked that, and I encouraged it. I liked helping and working with students.
The other thing is, as you know, in large universities, staffing—particularly faculty staffing—is
based upon departmental enrollment. If Craig Brown across the hall from me was teaching a course
that had 13 students in it, he didn’t even have enough to support one faculty equivalent. I was teaching
courses of 300, 350 students in them. By choice, at the end. I was that popular. I taught Crime and
Delinquency and Deviant Behavior and Organized Crime. People flocked to it. I was a good lecturer,
even as inexperienced as I was. Those were fascinating topics.
I was tough. I was a fair grader, fair but tough. My policies in those days were, you show up to
class, turn in the work, you’ll pass. You want an A? You’re really going to have to work your ass off.
I supported easily two or three faculty positions within that department. It didn’t bother me
whether I had—I don’t know, I guess it’s the showman in me or whatever—I felt I could teach as
effectively in a crowd of 300 as I could in 30. Obviously, that’s not totally true, but I was a good enough
lecturer and a good enough performer that I could pull it off, and it was never a strain to me. Never.
The larger the class, fine. It’s just a bigger crowd. I kind of enjoyed that. Bigger laugh.
Teaching is—and I don’t think this is a bad thing — from my perspective, a performing art. The
degree to which you can create an environment where people can learn, and that part of that involved
humor, showmanship or whatever, great. All I cared about is you walked out of there and you knew
that one thing that I wanted you to know about.
The other thing that was happening, too, there’s publish or perish. I’m cranking stuff out as fast
as I possibly can, but there were two things that worked against my ability to publish. One was I had
done a very, very interesting, complicated dissertation that turned out to be rather politically sensitive.
One of my advisors at Washington had a connection at UC-Davis in the law school, and they had gotten
a contract to do an evaluation of a program in California called the California Probation Subsidy
Program. The program was built on the premise that if a county, instead of sending someone to the
California Department of Corrections or to the California Youth Authority, would hold those people in
the country on probation, it would save the state a great deal of money. Theoretically, it would be much
more correctional.
To do that, the Legislature passed this probation subsidy law where if a county sentenced
someone to probation in the country rather than to a state correctional institution, they’d get a subsidy.
Several thousand dollars. All of a sudden, community corrections was infused with hundreds of
thousands of dollars from the state to mount these programs. I was called to come in as part of a team

to do the statistical evaluation of whether or not the program in fact had causally affected crime rates in
the counties.
Well, I found out more than they wanted to know. The fact of the matter is the program didn’t
really work. Even today, the ability to look at a criminal and to analyze them in such a way that you
could prescribe an effective rehabilitative program is very low. By the time people commit major
crimes, they’re pretty far down the line. It’s not like, oh, just go for a little bit to this 12-step program
Plus, the counties had an incentive to do this, even at risk. So, the counties were putting more
and more people on probation, but that meant two things. People who shouldn’t get probation were
getting it, and then immediately recidivating or getting in trouble. If you got bounced back off the
program, there wasn’t an option for additional probation. You went off to prison. What had been
originally a decline in state commitments, all of a sudden started to rise again as the counties began to
run out the possibilities of getting the subsidies.
My findings were not popular. That’s not what anybody wanted to hear. They became
controversial, and they became kind of a tennis match, and I was in the middle of it. I just was sick of it.
I was too young to get involved in something like that. I was too inexperienced to get involved with
something like that, so I never published anything off of my dissertation, and there was some stuff
worth publishing.
There were a couple of things I’d learned about public policy that makes sense today. In fact, I
was listening to This American Life the other day—one of my favorite podcasts—and part of the
discussion was about how legislative action can sometimes overcompensate and create other problems.
That’s kind of what I found is this effort on the part of the Legislature to correct one thing created a
whole new problem that made the original thing and other things even worse in some ways.
I wasn’t interested, I didn’t want to, I didn’t want to get involved with the dissertation stuff at
all, and so I didn’t. So, I didn’t have that to fall back on, to publish from. I was pulling all sorts of stuff
out of the air. I’d been on a TV quiz show, and I wrote a little piece about that and some other stuff. I
can’t blame them. I’d send them off and the editors of these journals would go, ah, this is superficial,
this is not about anything of substance.
By that time, my ego was too strong, it didn’t really bother me. Fuck them. I knew I didn’t have
anything profound to say. I did later on in life, and I got some of that stuff out, but in those days, the
only way I would have made tenure at Riverside is if the department would have made up a huge fight


for the fact that I was such an able teacher. They would have done, if for no other reason than the FTE I
generated for enrollment. They liked me. I was popular. They didn’t want me to go.
I came to Evergreen partly getting my feet on the path that I should have never gotten off of.
But partly as a failure, too. I couldn’t deny the fact the competitive me had left the competitive
situation where I had simply folded my hand. Didn’t play it out.
Zaragoza: I see. Do you want to take a break, or should we go right into your coming to Evergreen?
Kuehn: I’m on a roll here, unless you need to stop, keep going.
Zaragoza: No, I’m good.
Kuehn: Is this okay? Is this useful?
Zaragoza: It’s lovely. It’s lots of good stuff. I’m curious what quiz show.
Kuehn: Oh! I should send you the article. It was a program that, I think, was on at noon on ABC called
Split Second. I’ve got to tell you this story.
Zaragoza: You do.
Kuehn: My wife at the time was really interested in that kind of stuff. We were living out in Riverside,
and she sees this thing in the LA Times about “Want to be on a quiz show? Come and audition.” Blah
blah blah. So, she did. They had a little quiz over the phone, and she got invited for an audition. She
told me about it and I said, “I’ll try it, too.”
I’ve forgotten this. I’ve got to go back a bit. While I’m at Redlands—I don’t know if you
remember it; they’ve actually revived it, I saw on TV the other day—Sunday afternoons for years when I
was a young man, GE sponsored a program on NBC called College Bowl. They would have teams of four
from two colleges play this quiz show, and if you won it four weeks in a row, your school got some big
stuff. It was very competitive, and lots of universities wanted to be part of this. Redlands got chosen at
the end of my sophomore year to appear on the College Bowl in the fall of 1964.
There was a big competition on campus, and I was one of eight students chosen to be on the
team. Only four people went back to New York to play, but they had four alternates which they would
When we finished up in spring, I was number three on the team. I went off and I did an
internship that summer, and I was kind of naïve about all of this. Number three! I’m going back to New
York in the fall! I didn’t realize that players five, six, seven and eight really wanted to go, and so they
worked their asses off in the summer and I didn’t do anything except rest on my laurels. I came back
and they had more competitions, and I ended up ranked sixth. Boy, was I pissed! Fifth would have been


cool because I would have gone to New York. I wouldn’t have played but I would have been the
alternate. Sixth, they had to win one, and then I’d get to go.
They played Dickinson University. I’m at home with my parents and my girlfriend watching this
thing, and Redlands is leading Dickinson right till the last couple of minutes. In a moment I will never,
ever forget, there was a guy on the team—it should have been me, not him—a guy named Joe Linn, this
squeaky fucker—and I forget what the question was, but the answer was, marsupials. [slams his fist on
the table] And Linn buzzes in and Linn doesn’t know what the fuck a marsupial is from a Band-Aid. We
lose. The question goes to Dickinson. They answer it. They go ahead. We lose! My trip to New York is
blown away by Joe Linn’s ignorance in the last 30 seconds in the game.
I carried this for me for several years, the fact that I was cheated—basically twice—out of my
rightful position on the College Bowl team. So, my wife’s going to try out for this thing. I figured I’d try
out, so I call them, and they ask you these questions. They were trivia questions, and I used to be pretty
good at that stuff, so I qualify for an audition, too.
We drive in. We go to the studio in Hollywood at ABC. We do more interviews, and she doesn’t
get selected, but I do. That’s part of the premise of my article because I learned something about
entertainment on television. It’s that quiz shows are scripted, in a certain sense. This was in the days
following all the great quiz show scandals, so they were very careful about security. But if you’re going
to pull together three people to play on Jeopardy, you’re going to pick three people who provide some
degree of not only competitive equality but have personality or something.
Anyhow, I got selected to be on this thing, and I get a call a couple of weeks later to come in. It
was an evening taping, so they did them all on one day. They did three in the afternoon and two in the
evening. “Bring in a change of clothing.” I go and I sit all night in this thing, and they don’t call me. I sit
back in the dressing room, secluded, with a bunch of other contestants. I got pissed about that. I came
all the way from Riverside to spend a whole evening and nothing happens. They said, “We promise we’ll
get you on next time. We’ll put you in the first set.”
I come back the next week in the afternoon. Now, I’ve got to have four changes of clothing, just
in case I win all the way through. I carry in all my clothing, and the first round, I don’t get to play. The
second round, I get called. There is the reigning champion, the person who won the previous game,
sitting there, there’s me and there’s a young woman. Perfect setup.
I’m introduced [as a] “A college professor from the Pacific Northwest”—even though I was at
Riverside—this kid here, he’s a college student. He’s a community college student. [slams his fist on the
table] from El Segundo or someplace. What a setup, right? College student versus college professor.

The game was a trivia game. They’d ask you a question, and each question, they have three answers to
it, and if you get all three—“Name three movies that John Wayne starred in”—if you get all three of
them then you’d get a bunch of points. If you only got two, then it would bounce to somebody else to
get the third one.
Through the rounds of that, I won easily. The championship round, though—and there was a lot
at stake here—over on this other stage here are, I think, five automobiles, and if you won the first
round, you were given a key, and you could go up and try one of those five. If it worked, you got to keep
the car! You won the second round, there would only be four cars. If you went all the way through,
there would be one car and your key.
We get to the championship car round and I’m first.. Boy oh boy, I honestly forget what the first
question was. I had to get three parts, if I get three parts I wipe all the rest of them out. I get to go try
the car. But I only get two of the three, and I can’t remember the third. I think he buzzes in and gets
one, so now we’re doing the second round of this thing. I’ve got to get one. He’s got to get three. She’s
got to get five.
“Name three motion pictures starring Shir”—[slams his fist on the table] He hits the button. He
knows every picture that Shirley Temple has ever been in. Of course, he’s a film arts fucking major.
[laughing] The college professor is defeated. The little banquette we sat on, the three together, is on
rails. He steps out to go down to get down to get the car, and we are literally zoomed back on wheels.
It’s all over. I don’t know whether he got the car or not.
Punch line. Okay, it’s over. I’m kind of glad it’s over at least. Humiliated by being defeated by
this college kid. I get my changes of clothing, and I’m walking out. I am walking out of the studio down
an alleyway to the front of the studio where my wife is waiting for me, carrying my clothing over my
As I’m walking, a couple approaches me. In southern California, you can tell a tourist real quick,
and these are clearly not southern Californians. But it is clear that they attended the show, and it is
clear they recognize me. As I’m coming close to them, they walked up to me and said, “Oh, we’re so
sorry. We thought you were going to win.” Blah blah blah. You’ve seen this. You’ve been at a cocktail
party or convention. Their eyes kind of glaze over, and they see something beyond me, and they sort of
disappear. I turn around, and who’s coming out? The kid! [laughing] I’m sure they asked for his
How the hell did I end up telling you that story?
Zaragoza: I was curious about the quiz show.

Kuehn: That was it. That was it. I got an article out of it.
Zaragoza: Beautiful. You didn’t get a car, but you did get the article, and maybe a little bit of a lesson
there that led you to your Evergreen—
Kuehn: Better than that, Tony. I got 275 bucks and a set of stainless steel flatware. [laughter] It was
worth the effort.
Zaragoza: Nice.
Kuehn: The worst part—I’d forgotten this—I had told everybody, all my colleagues at Riverside, that I
was going to do this thing, so they’re all excited about it. [laughter] Now I’ve got to tell them what
happened. Worse, I have to invite them over to our apartment for lunch and watch this thing. It was a
humbling experience.
Zaragoza: Yeah. That, in some ways, is one of your leadups to teaching at Evergreen. Can you tell us,
Duke, how did you hear about Evergreen? How did this opportunity present itself to you? How did you
get out to Olympia to teach at The Evergreen State College?
Kuehn: You know by now, you know I’ve got stories. I had heard about Evergreen because I think in the
last year that I was in Seattle at the U, it got funded or opened. I can’t remember the exact timing of it,
but I knew there was a new liberal arts college in Olympia. I vaguely followed it. I didn’t realize how
alternative it was.
My wife and I wanted to come back to the Northwest. We had become Northwesterners the
four years we lived in Seattle. Looking at liberal arts options, the two choices that were first in my mind
were Lewis and Clark in Portland and the University of Puget Sound here in Tacoma. I think PLU and
Evergreen had come lower, sort of secondary choices, but they weren’t primary choices. It was not a
good hiring year for that kind of stuff. I didn’t get anywhere with them. But I did get some interest from
Evergreen. Not a lot. In some ways, at that time, I was not a particularly good fit. You’ll learn more as
we talk about this.
I was scheduled to present a paper at the Pacific Sociological Association meetings in Seattle in
mid-April. I had been communicating back and forth and not getting anywhere with Evergreen. Llyn
Patterson was one of the deans at that time and I called or wrote or something—communicated with
Llyn—and indicated I was going to be in Seattle. Was there any possibility that I could come down for a
visit? So, I invited myself to Evergreen.
I remember it was a beautiful spring day when I drove the car down to Olympia. Went on the
campus for the first time ever. This was the spring of 1975, so the college had been in operation four


years. It was a zoo. It was unbelievable. Extraordinarily creative but, boy, it was non-institutional.
There were no handrails.
I came down and I visited. She sent me to sit in on a seminar with Oscar Soule, who became a
good friend. I watched that. She had me meet with a faculty member whose name I can’t remember,
and who left not longer after I came. He was a psychologist. Really nice guy. We met and he showed
me around the campus. I felt kind of sorry for him because they hadn’t told him anything really about
what to do.
They didn’t have any real plan for me, so we go to the Student Union and have a cup of coffee or
something and we come out and we’re all done. It’s late in the afternoon, and he doesn’t have anything
to do with me or do. He’s stuck with me. Right? We’re standing by the clock tower in Red Square, and I
could see he was kind of uncomfortable because he couldn’t get rid of me. [laughing] Finally, I said to
him, “Hey, I’ve got to get back to the airport anyhow. Thank you very much.” He just kind of backed
away from me. [laughing]
I left and I didn’t really think anything was going to happen. A month or so later—true story—
Sunday night I get a call from a student of mine—undergraduate, senior, good kid. He says, “Dr. Kuehn,
I really need your help.” I said, “What’s that, Larry?” He said, “I’ve been arrested and I’m in the San
Diego County Jail. Do you think you could come down and get me out?”
That’s the kind of teacher I was. Right? The guy felt confident enough to call his professor, so
Sunday night, I drive all the way from Riverside to San Diego, about a three-hour drive. Get down there
like 1:00 in the morning. Get him out of jail. Drive him all the way back home.
I go to class and I’m hardly awake, and I get a call that day from Llyn Patterson. They offered me
a job at Evergreen. I took it. It was not my first choice, for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless, I was
ready to get out of Riverside, so I took the job.
You know this history as well as I do, but there was a planning faculty—30 or 35—who were
hired in, I think, 1970. They did a year or so of planning, and they hired a cohort to join them, I think
another 30 or so faculty. When the college opened, it opened with, I guess, 60 or 70 faculty, all either
part of that original team, or handpicked by that original team. To this day if I went on campus, I would
still be seen as a newcomer. I was not part of those initial two cohorts.
Over the next couple of years, they hired people like me, and Ginny Ingersoll, and Joye
Hardiman, and a bunch of good faculty. I’m not sure what rationale they used. I think they were
plugging holes, or they were adding here and supplementing there.


There was one other sociologist on the faculty at Evergreen at the time, a guy named Earle
McNeil who taught very, very—in my mind— soft sociology. One of the founding deans, a guy named
Merv Cadwallader, was a nationally known sociologist, but very, very qualitative, not quantitative at all.
I think Cadwallader was largely instrumental in making sure the social scientists they hired were all
qualitative kinds of people. There were no quantitative people.
Either the year or two years before I was there, Russ Lidman was hired. Russ was a quantitative
economist, so Russ and I were the only two social scientists on campus who did anything with data.
Hard data. In fact, I was told at a hiring DTF meeting, a faculty member at Evergreen threatened to
resign if I were hired, not because of me personally, but because of the pedagogy that I represented and
the scholarship I represented.
So, I wasn’t particularly welcome. I wasn’t unwelcome, but I wasn’t really welcome. I didn’t
really fit in all that well, even though my inclination was very much towards the liberal arts. I did much
over the time that I was at Evergreen by trying to bridge the liberal arts with quantitative analysis.
So, that’s how I got to Evergreen. I don’t know how I got hired.
Zaragoza: Would you tell a little bit about the early educational atmosphere and philosophy, as you
experienced it in those first couple years, Duke?
Kuehn: [Laughing] It was a fucking zoo. [laughter] Literally, the curriculum was designed every spring
for the fall. Faculty teams were composed, and the best comparison I can give to it, it was just like
fraternity rush. People would clump together because they wanted to teach with some people and
really didn’t want to teach with others, and they would find something to teach, a topic to teach.
I had no understanding of this at all. I’d done a little bit of interdisciplinary work at Riverside,
strangely enough. I team-taught a course with a guy from the Poli-Sci Department, which was very
revolutionary. The concept of interdisciplinary education was not foreign or unacceptable to me, but I’d
never seen anything like this.
The first assignment I had was perfect. I was assigned to a program—I forget what they called
them in those days, but it was a freshman-level program, entry-level program—called Self Exploration
Through Autobiography. Here I am, a quantitative social scientist, assigned to teach with Thad Curtz, a
Lit guy, someone whose name I’ve forgotten, another Lit person, and a visiting faculty member from
Ireland, kind of a very low-key Dylan Thomas. [laughing] Also a Lit person.
I was supposed to provide the social science side of this program that was looking at exploring
yourself. All the other exploration was very, very, very much . . . you can imagine it. [laughing]


The students were required to do seminar, to write, I think, at least 20 pages of autobiography a
week. That’s extraordinary!
Zaragoza: Wow.
Kuehn: I’ve written an autobiography in my seventies, and I couldn’t do 20 pages a week for 10 weeks.
I didn’t realize my colleagues were simply sampling the pages. I read every friggin’ page—400 pages of
autobiography—every week.
Zaragoza: Wow.
Kuehn: Here’s the other problem. This was a freshman-level program. These were mostly 18- or 19year-old kids. Hard for them to have much of an autobiography for the first 20 pages, much less the
next 120, 180. They went very deep, some of them. Very, very deep. Supernaturally deep. But I hung
in there. I taught a good seminar. I read all their stuff and I helped them, and they became better
writers, no question. We helped them with their writing. I don’t know how much analytically it was
helpful, but it was interesting.
It was crazy. The faculty seminars were crazy. My colleagues were very nice and very kind and
very helpful. It couldn’t have been a better orientation to Evergreen in some ways. This was a very
strong program. The students really learned a lot. They learned too much, in some ways. I was able to
pass on a little bit of Soc and Psych 101 to them.
The spring rolled around. I forget what I went to in the second two quarters. Spring rolled
around and I didn’t realize the fraternity rush aspect of all of this. A faculty member—an established
faculty member—at Evergreen came in and said, “Hey, we’re putting together a program and I’d really
like you to teach with us next year.” I was honored I didn’t have to go seeking. We talked a little bit
about this and I signed on.
As the rest of the team progressed, he said he wanted to add a certain member of the faculty
who I really didn’t want to teach with. I really thought the guy was a flake. I still think he’s a flake. Nice
guy. Good teacher, but just touchy-feely, flakey stuff. This was kind of a political economy program, as I
recall. I really didn’t want to do this.
By then, places were filling up. I’d already been selected to be in Alpha Tau Omega. Right? I did
not want to do this, so I went to see Ed Kormondy, who was the Provost. Ed was a terrific guy. Really
nice guy. Good Provost.
I said, “Ed, you’re wasting my talents here. This is not going to be a good program, and I’m not
going to contribute very much to it. I don’t want to do that.” And, in a decision that kind of saved my
life—certainly changed my life, absolutely; you and I wouldn’t be talking if this hadn’t happened—Ed

says, “Evergreen is really Southwestern Washington State College. We have an obligation to work with
and serve educational institutions throughout the region and the community colleges. We’re trying to
forge a relationship with Clark College, a community college, down in Vancouver, and it’s been
suggested by one of the deans that we might start an upper-division human services program. Would
you be willing to run that program, help put it together?” “Sign me up.”
I helped put it together with one other dean, Will Humphreys, and a couple of other faculty,
Richard Alexander and Leo Daugherty. We mounted this two-year program, which was, at that time,
situated at Clark College. We took 65 students through in two years to earn their degrees. They were
all adult returning students. Given the fact that it was 1976, there were many, many adult returning
women students.
It was a powerful, strong interdisciplinary program with a focus on careers in human services,
administration or clinically. It was the first administrative position I’d ever been given in my life. I
commuted once a week the 104 miles from Olympia to Vancouver. Stayed in a motel there two nights.
It was a wonderful experience. It was a good program, strong program. Great students. My
first real experience in teaching adult students. It was just a great program. The college got great public
relations from it.
Ironically, exactly at the same time, maybe a year before, Maxine Mimms had started the
Tacoma Program, but the college nowhere ever promoted that as much as they promoted my program,
which I think presented a little bit of resentment on the part of Maxine. Who the hell was I when she
was doing all this stuff out of her kitchen?
Right in the middle of all of this, lo and behold, Charles McCann retires as President and Dan
Evans becomes President. As I told you before, I have great admiration of Evans. It was great working
for him, and I learned a lot. He’s a terrific guy, but it was an odd choice on his part. Just as I didn’t
understand much of Evergreen, nobody else did, either. He understood the Vancouver Program, and he
understood me, and I rose in his esteem very, very quickly. It didn’t make any difference to him that I
hadn’t been hired in 1969. He could see what I was doing and how it was working.
So, I got known by Evans, and Evans—I think it’s a true story—when Evans arrived, almost one
by one everyone of those original 70 faculty members sought Evans out to tell him what he needed to
know. I didn’t. I was one of the few that Evans sought out.
Suddenly, I learned then and learned for the rest of my life about political relations; basically,
how to work with decision-makers. I never had an agenda to advance, but if you asked me, I had
opinions. That forced an early relationship that paid out later on when I became his assistant.

The Vancouver Program was a profound, compelling experience, and it proved I was able to
stand in front of faculty from that day forward and say there is no inherent conflict between liberal arts
and careers. There’s no inherent conflict between—and many of these planning faculty, they’d come
from all these fancy liberal arts colleges, and—no question—their image of the ideal Evergreen student
was somebody who was at Reed. Reed was the model. Reed students were the ideal. The idea that you
would end up with a classroom of people who were 35, 40 years old looking to advance their careers
and finish their education—that did not fit their conceptions. That was not Oberlin. That was not
Dickinson. That was not Reed. That was not all these other places they had in mind.
I don’t know why I felt this way, Tony, but from the very beginning, I believed that the power of
a liberal arts education was that it did allow you to pursue academic careers or professional careers. It
was a powerful foundation for that stuff.
In a very brief amount of time—18 months—I had become, I wouldn’t say a presence, because I
don’t even think many people even knew me, but I had become an icon of a different approach to things
at Evergreen. Ginny Ingersoll had been hired in the same cohort I was hired in, and she was doing the
same thing on campus with her management program. She and I teamed up, we had the same vision.
Ginny and I and Russ Lidman and a couple of others represented a different approach to the
social sciences. It was not only more vocationally oriented, not only more oriented towards hard data,
but more traditional in a lot of ways, no question. It didn’t mean we weren’t open to interdisciplinary
approaches and invited interdisciplinary approaches. We were good with interdisciplinary work, but
there was never any question there’s a solid base here, and it’s rooted in the social sciences.
That’s my early experience. I would not get fraternity rushes. I don’t know what would have
happened if I hadn’t been invited to join the team that I backed out of. I don’t know what would have
happened if I had not gone to Vancouver.
I’m a relatively religious person. I don’t make a big deal about it, but I do believe in a sort of
divine direction to things. Because if you had asked me six months before, I could have never told you.
If you had asked me when I came here, I could have never told you I’m going to end up teaching at a
community college with adults. Never. It wasn’t even anywhere on my radar. Unimaginable. That I
did, changed my life. You and I would not be talking right now if that had not happened, I guarantee
Zaragoza: Sorry, Duke. Say that one more time.
Kuehn: If I had not been given that assignment to Vancouver, you and I probably never would have met.
Not in this kind of context. It absolutely changed my life and changed it for the better. But it confirms

that point that I made earlier to my granddaughter. If you’ve got a choice, take the one that opens
doors. Because all sorts of things after the Vancouver Program materialized.
There’s a little footnote to that, and we’ll probably get to that later on, but when I didn’t—I was
the acting director of the Evergreen’s Institute for Public Policy, and when I didn’t get it, I was really
crushed. It really hurt me. I remember going home and telling my wife—this came right at the
beginning of the summer—I said, “I’m really going to make this consulting business work. If it works, I’m
quitting. I’m leaving Evergreen. I’m quitting teaching.” Well, I need to get enough contracts to replace
my Evergreen salary and benefits. Almost, but I didn’t.
A couple years later, we’re sitting in Paris at a bistro eating French onion soup. I love Paris. To
me, it is the world. Sipping this wine, eating this French onion soup. I look at Kathleen and I go, “If I’d
gotten that job at the institute, we wouldn’t be sitting here right now.” [laughing]
That’s been the story of my life, these kinds of odd doors that open. All right, I’ll try thst. Then
all of a sudden, I’m in Tokyo, or meeting a ballet dancer. Whatever it is, I just always “Let’s go see. Let’s
try that and see what happens,” and be open and responsive to that. I will thank Evergreen for that in
that regards. Evergreen was a site of enormous opportunity. They allowed me to do things and get
away with things that I never would have been allowed to at any kind of conventional institution, even a
liberal arts school.
Because there was no structure. There was nobody to say “no.” Or if there was, there was
nobody who could argue very forcefully against what I wanted to try, so I got to do basically whatever
the hell I wanted to do. I think, to the betterment of the school and the programs and the students. I
saw other people do that. It was an environment where it rewarded entrepreneurship at the highest
level. But I’m not sure intentionally. I think it just didn’t have any structure to control it. [laughing]
Zaragoza: Right, so people could find things that interested in them, and they were passionate about,
and pursued those pathways.
Kuehn: Yep.
Zaragoza: Duke, you mentioned your work in management and administration, and teaching those at
Evergreen. Is that the next step for you? Is that the next direction after Vancouver?
Kuehn: I tried to think about it the other day. I meant to pull out my portfolio and look. I cannot
specifically remember what my assignment was when I came back from Vancouver. It might have been
Political Ecology. I don’t know. I’ll go back and look it up.
I was kind of a sociologist for hire for a couple years, and I enjoyed that. You could drop me into
a program and there wasn’t anything that I couldn’t adapt what I was trying to teach about. Because

the longer I taught at Evergreen—you know this—the more I began to develop a very personalized,
individualized conception of what the social sciences were. The more I adapted the things I had learned
myself as an undergraduate and graduate.
So, I fit in well if you were teaching a program about ecology or teaching a program about
whatever. I fit in well because I was looking at rather high-level processes. I spent a lot of time—I
taught a program with Ginny Ingersoll on decision-making, just that alone, because that was the focus of
much of my work. How do people make decisions? If you contextualize it, how do they make decisions
in courts? How do they make decisions in legislatures? How did they make decisions in boardrooms?
I spent a lot of time learning about the support of social processes. Parenting. Socialization.
How do these processes work in social systems? Which meant that I fit in well. And I was a good
colleague. I was supportive of the people I taught with. I didn’t always necessarily like them or agree
with them, but I supported them, so I was a sought-after faculty member. I got to teach in some fun
programs. Taught a course with Sally Cloninger. A big chunk of my piece was on pornography. It was
Made some wonderful friendships, most of which gradually deteriorated because I’m away from
there and got disconnected altogether from it. We’ll talk about this later. As I began to consult, I was
already a marginal faculty member in some people’s minds. I was even more marginalized because they
couldn’t figure out, what the hell was that? Why is he doing that? Money. That would be money.
Bought a new car. I think some faculty thought — that’s why consultants all get those fancy new cars.
That wasn’t it at all, but I didn’t turn away the money, that’s for sure. [laughing]
Zaragoza: Would you talk some about the decision-making program that you were in, and some of that
work? That sounds fascinating, Duke. What was that like, and what was driving that program?
Kuehn: What was driving it was my friendship with Ginny. We both sought what I would call kind of
hard thinking social science work, so we formed a very, very close brother-sister kind of relationship.
Very supportive of each other.
I’m not sure exactly how we hit on the theme. The program was built as the follow-up to her
Management in Public Interest Program. It had a strong evening component, so it was attracting a lot of
adult students who were already employed by the State here in the county.
We just looked at the concept of decision-making. I can’t even remember what we read. A lot
of autobiographical stuff, probably. How do people make decisions? How do you do that? Is there a
process, or are there processes? I used then something that I have used a lot of. I used the cockpit
flight recordings from the National Transportation safety reports of airline crashes. I used the

communication between the pilot and the first officer and navigator in those days. They were profound,
live case studies of how decisions get or don’t get made. We drew upon that kind of stuff. How do
people really make decisions? I’ll have to dig it out. It’s been a long time since I’ve thought about this.
That would have been . . . that might have been what I came back and did after Vancouver. That may
have been it.
The concept of decision-making has fascinated me since the beginning of when I started
studying the social sciences. I was particularly curious, as a sociologist would be, how decisions get
made in an organizational context. It wasn’t just that I went to the grocery store and decided to buy a
leg of lamb. It was I decided to merge with Amazon.
I have in myself fought for years a battle in which I stress the importance of human cognition. I
was never one who accepted psychological or social scientific explanations that people were just things
that were battered around by forces other than their own conscious thought. I think conscious thought
means something.
Ginny and I were very compatible, not just as teachers but in terms of the theoretical approach
to this. I think it was a very practical course that really did help people lesrn how to understand how
decisions were being made, along with their own role in all of that, if they had one. It was a good
Zaragoza: You also mentioned this Management in the Public Interest. Would you tell us some about
that? That sounds fascinating, and in some ways, it sounds like what some of the best work in the
Masters in Public Administration program should be all about.
Kuehn: Yeah.
Zaragoza: Love to hear some of those.
Kuehn: I don’t know the origins of that program because Ginny and I came in in the same cohort. She
was, I think, hired to put that program together. She and I didn’t interact or know or see each other at
all for the first few years. First, because I was in that autobiography program, and then I was in
Vancouver, so I only got to know here tangentially over time, and then when we began to discover the
common interests we had.
I’m sure she was hired and encouraged to develop an undergraduate program like that because
of the constant, incessant cry from the community to have a program in management. She put it
together, I think with one other guy. I can’t remember his name, maybe Chuck Nisbet. But she was the
heart and soul of it for years.


The title was perfect: Management in the Public Interest. It immediately assuaged all those
fears that this is a business program, and it appealed very well to the cohort of people at Evergreen or
within the community who were involved in the public sector.
I wasn’t a part of the design or the initial handling of that program. I think if we’d known our
common interests and abilities, it would have come earlier. Ultimately, it was. I was a key faculty
member in it for years, but never as much as the three or four who had taught the program in the very
beginning. It was a good program, and it was a significant turn in Evergreen’s development.
I’ll tell you this now, but it will be more important later on. When I was looking at the problems
with Evergreen’s enrollment in the late ‘70s, I found almost everything was going down. Down, down,
down, down, down. There were a few places where we weren’t, and her program was one of them
because it attracted students from community colleges and from the local community. All the other
programs, no. No appeal, or little appeal. It was a very, very strong program.
Zaragoza: You also worked with the Masters in Public Administration program? Do you want to talk
about how that got started, or how your work with it got started?
Kuehn: I don’t know how it got started exactly. It must have been in some proposal at some point in
time that Evergreen start a graduate program. I think they decided simultaneously that a program of
public administration and a public program in environmental sciences would make sense.
A small, tiny faculty were put together. They hired a guy named Guy Adams, who taught with
Ginny in the management program, and who was a public administrator. I think Guy and Russ Lidman
and a couple of other people were a planning team for that. I wasn’t involved in the planning for it at
all, I’m not sure why. I’m not sure I even would have been that interested.
They put that program together and then I taught in the first year. I taught Quantitative
Methods with David Paulsen. You know how ironic that is, given my own experience in graduate school,
but here, the guy who was skeptical about all of that, suddenly becomes the proponent of it. David, a
fellow faculty member who has since retired, and I taught that first Quant Methods class. It was really
Probably of all the things I taught at Evergreen, the best stuff I taught was statistics. As I think
you’ve heard, I taught a statistics course with Gilda Sheppard in which we taught statistics alongside the
history of jazz. It was unbelievable. She’s unbelievable.
Zaragoza: That sounds incredible.
Kuehn: It was extraordinary. She is, without a doubt, the most extraordinary person I ever taught with.
Zaragoza: That’s great.

Kuehn: I’m so happy for her late-arriving success at filmmaking. It’s well deserved and long overdue.
Zaragoza: Yeah, yeah. I think we’re just at the beginning of it, to be honest with you.
Kuehn: I think so, too. I’m so happy for her. I don’t want to stop this. Keep going.
Zaragoza: I wonder if we should take a break here and then come back another day to get some of the
other stuff—your work with Dan Evans, the Tacoma Program, among other things?
Kuehn: Sure.
Zaragoza: Why don’t we pause here?
Kuehn: Sounds good.


Duke Kuehn
Interviewed by Anthony Zaragoza
The Evergreen State College oral history project
July 12, 2021

Zaragoza: Good morning once again, Duke. We’re back here with you for the second part of your
interview. It’s July 12, 2021. When we left off, we were talking about the Management in the Public
Interest program that you had worked with, and then you started to get into Evergreen’s enrollment
crisis and some of that. Maybe you could give us some context for your work in that and your winding
path at Evergreen. Like many of us, once you get into the Evergreen machine, or lack of a machine, you
can go in so many different directions and get spun around.
Kuehn: That’s for sure. A little bit of background. I had come to Evergreen partly because it was
located in the state capital. Not that I was interested in politics, but I was interested in public policy
research. I’d done a little bit of that stuff at Riverside, and I knew I wanted to do more of it.
In my first week of orientation at Evergreen, they introduced to everybody, all the
administrative offices and everything. I made that first day a lifelong friendship, and a life-altering
friendship, with a fellow named Les Eldridge. Les was the Assistant to the President and the head of
Legislative Affairs. He was Evergreen’s lobbyist downtown.
He was in a meeting, and after the meeting, I walked up to him and I introduced myself, and I
told him that I wanted to get involved with the Legislature. He was excited to have a faculty member
who was interested in that kind of stuff, and so he taught me everything from the ground up. We
became fast friends. He died last year.
Zaragoza: Sorry.
Kuehn: I was honored to speak at his memorial service. Les went on to become a Thurston County
Commissioner, which he served for many years, and was very active in Democratic politics in the state.
From the very first day of Evergreen, I got on a track that I had intended, and it was a track that,
quite frankly, wasn’t particularly interesting to most of my colleagues, or if it was, more in a political
As I indicated, two significant things happened within my first three or four years at Evergreen.
The first thing, as I told you, was that at the faculty welcome the first day of 1975, the Provost, Ed


Kormondy, stood up and told us that there were serious enrollment problems, and they might have to
reduce faculty. Since I was new and had no tenure and no seniority, that wasn’t particularly good news.
After my first year at Evergreen and my two years at Vancouver, and in my growing friendship
with Eldridge, Dan Evans became President. A lot of what happened thereafter in some ways was
Eldridge’s doing. He had his own agenda legislatively to advance. He had my support and my friendship,
and he also, as he got to know me better, realized that I had some resources that were particularly
useful to the college, most notably, my ability to analyze data.
I forget what I taught when I first came back. I think I might have taught that course with Ginny
Ingersoll on decision-making. At the end of that, Eldridge convinced me and Evans that I should be
appointed the college’s first Director of what’s called Institutional Research. That’s kind of a technical
term that’s unique to colleges and universities. What it really means is there’s somebody who collects
data internally and does internal research that’s pertinent to the college’s operations. Could be
budgetary stuff. In my case, it turned out to be major stuff about enrollment.
Zaragoza: Duke, you were the founder of Evergreen’s Institutional Research department/project,
however we might call it?
Kuehn: I was the first one.
Zaragoza: Fantastic. Such an important part of Evergreen still to this day.
Kuehn: Tony, I didn’t even know such a position existed. I didn’t even know there were such things.
But Eldridge did. Eldridge saw this. Eldridge also saw this as an effective way of communicating with
Evans. Evans was an engineer. Evans was a data guy. He already liked me. As I told you, he understood
the Evergreen program [in Vancouver at Clark College] and he liked the way I approached things.
As I told you, I was never one to give him advice. He was getting advice from all sorts of faculty
about all sorts of stuff, and I didn’t give advice. Never have. You ask me a question, I’ll give you an
answer, but I’m not likely to seek you out and tell you what you’ve got to know.
So, I open this Institutional Research office. I’m not teaching at all. The enrollment problems
were prominent. Nobody understood why we had an enrollment problem. That was the amazing thing.
The college was in operation now six or seven or eight years, and everybody knew we had a problem,
and nobody seemed to understand what the nature of the problem was.
To tell you the truth, it didn’t take all that much statistical acumen to figure out what was going
on. At the same time, or close to the same time, the college appointed a DTF to look at the college’s
enrollment problems. I was appointed to that. I don’t know if I as appointed because of my Institutional
Research position. Whatever. I ended up on this DTF, and I start analyzing data.

I go back and look at admissions data. I go back and look at applications. I go back and look at
people who left the college, people who stayed in college. I conducted what I ended up calling a
program called Super Sort. Over the Thanksgiving weekend of whatever year that was—’78, ‘79—I went
through all this enrollment data. The statistical analysis was pretty simple. I simply looked year after
year after year to see what, if any, percentage changes there were.
The thing I did, however, is that I looked at seven or eight or nine demographic characteristics.
Age, gender, transfer from a community college or four-year school, stuff like that. I drew trend lines. I
could go from 1971 all the way out to 1979. Downstairs, I still have a poster-board that I made of the
overall trend line. The overall trend line of the college looked like this. It went up steeply, stabilized,
and then held pretty stable. It didn’t go up anymore.
That was deceptive because the second thing I looked at was new admissions each year. That
went up steeply two years, and then went into a nosedive. Without getting too technical about all of
this, fundamentally what was happening was the college was very popular in its first two years of
operation. Tons of students came, and tons of students left. Didn’t like it.
Moreover, the college gained no traction or popularity with two major populations: high school
counselors and high school students. The number of high school directs from the State of Washington
literally fell to single digits. I think it was seven or eight or nine one year. Unbelievable. It was
unbelievable that a four-year institution in a state could attract each year less than 10 new students.
Not transfers, new students. Freshmen. The freshman class was just disappearing.
The overall trend line looked like it was stable, but the fact of the matter, it was just crashing
through the ground. When you looked at new enrollments, it was clear that within a couple of years,
after you’ve finally moved out those people who’d come in in the first few years and they graduated,
there was nothing to replace them. The college was headed straight down the toilet.
I was stunned. Then I went through and I looked at every conceivable demographic
combination. I had a good sense about this. I was assuming—that’s the thing about any overall trend
line. What you learn as a statistician is that an overall trend line is made up of hundreds and hundreds
and hundreds of smaller trends, and they all add up and accumulate. I figured there were lots that were
going down, but there had to be some going up.
At the end of that Thanksgiving weekend, out of hundreds of trend lines that I looked at, I think
there were six that went up. Of any piece of research I’ve ever done in my life, it was as stunning and
shocking as it could have been. The few trend lines that went up were community college transfers,
some local evening students, stuff like that. Not enough. Nothing.

I reported this back to Evans and to Eldridge, and I guess to the DTF. It looked hopeless. Nearly
hopeless. Somehow in all of that, I think again, partly at Eldridge’s instigation, Evans decided that the
college needed to undertake a major initiative to turn the enrollment around by the next fall. I can’t
remember. I’ve got to go back and look, but I’m guessing this was in the winter of ’78 or ’79. The goal
was to turn the admissions trend line back up within nine months, let’s say.
I was 30 years old, and I was appointed Special Assistant to the President—as I told you before,
appropriately named SAP—and I was given the job of turning the enrollment around. I don’t know
anything about this stuff, Tony. I’m 30 years old. I’ve been teaching for six years. I know nothing about
marketing, certainly nothing about marketing in admissions to colleges. Nothing about mobilizing a
thing like this. But Eldridge thought I could do it, Evans thought I could do it. I thought I could do it. I
figured I could try.
The Director of Admissions, Larry Stenberg, and the Registrar—the guy’s name, I’ve since
forgotten—were cooperative and helpful, but they were all kind of confused. So, it started out in an
office downstairs in the Library Building. Got a secretary out of it.
They sent me to a couple of workshops. [laughing] I got sent to a workshop on direct mail
advertising. That was pretty weird, but I learned Marketing 101. I remember I went one weekend—this
must have been in early spring, late winter—I’d had these experiences because of the Vancouver
Program, having driven back and forth between Olympia and Vancouver and I knew all sorts of places in
between. Down just north or Kelso/Longview, in those days there was a little old motel alongside a
river. Probably been there since the ‘30s. No longer there.
I went in and I checked into that motel. It must have had one of the first laptops ever. No, it
was an IBM Selectric I hauled down there. I spent the weekend all by myself eating burgers from a local
stand, still there, and I wrote Evergreen’s first marketing plan ever.
Zaragoza: Wow.
Kuehn: I didn’t know anything about this, but I guess I had a kind of intuition about it. A lot of the stuff
that I’ve done in my life is quite honestly common sense. But common sense is often at a premium in
organizations that have problems.
I wrote a marketing plan, and a thrust of it was to go after community college transfers.
Anothef thrust of it was to reposition ourselves with high schools. As part of my background in research
with this, I went out with admissions counselors to high school visits. It was stunning. The admissions
officers sold Evergreen’s bullshit all the way. No majors. No grades. Blah blah blah blah blah. We’re
not really even a college in some ways.

That’s not how to market a college. We had all sorts of wonderful alternatives, but I’d be sitting
at the table with an admissions counselor and a kid would walk up and say, “Can I major in marine
biology at Evergreen?” The first thing the admissions counselor would say was, “No.”
One of the things that you learn in Marketing 101 is you never say no to a prospect. Right?
“No.” The kid would immediately turn off, even though the Evergreen counselor might go on to stress
all of Evergreen’s positives. “We don’t have majors, but we have concentrations.” Blah blah blah blah
blah. The kid was gone by then. “No major. I can’t study marine studies at Evergreen. Fuck it. I’m
outta here.” That’s how you end up with eight or nine high school freshmen.
So, I mounted a major initiative to make sure that the high schools understood what Evergreen
was all about. I also did a bunch of research, and the most interesting finding was that a lot of people
didn’t like Evergreen, and even more people didn’t know anything at all about it. They bought the
college’s pitch. “We’re not a college.” “Well, I want to go to college. I don’t want to go to a not a
college,” at least all but seven or eight high school students. [laughing]
We worked our asses off. I think I told you, in a moment that I still find phenomenal, there was
a faculty meeting, and I was asked by Evans to present to the faculty the result of the Super Sort study.
There was no arguing the data. The college was in deep trouble. It was kind of like looking at your tires
and realizing all four of them are going flat at the same time.
I got very few questions. You’ve got to remember, most of those faculty were not at all
statistically oriented or empirically oriented, so they were a bit suspicious of all of that. They were very
suspicious of me. As I told you before, I’d been hired in the fifth year of the college’s operation, and I
was kind of a deviant case to begin with.
We’re standing in the meeting room downstairs in the Student Union Building and I’m standing
in front of the whole faculty and Evans was standing next to me. Evans puts his arm around me on my
shoulder. He had a powerful speaking voice. He was an exceptional speaker. He looked at the faculty
and the gathered staff and said, “Duke Kuehn speaks with my voice until I tell him to shut up.”
Zaragoza: Clear.
Kuehn: Never before or never since have I been given such a blank check. It was partly because Evans
had a lot of confidence in me. He didn’t have any answers either, so I guess I was also a bit of a
sacrificial sheep there. But I walked out, and I met with every single person I could meet with. I was
never mean, never threatening, and never abused my authority, but I made it very clear. I’d be talking


to somebody in the administration, and I’d say, “This has got to get done. If you don’t do it, I’ll find
somebody who will do it.”
I met with faculty, and I certainly knew some faculty were more community-oriented than
others. I said for years—I had no proof of this but I’ve always felt this even before I got to Evergreen—
“If you went to any college or university campus in the world, at least in the US, they all have some sort
of Red Square. And I gathered all the faculty in that Red Square, here’s what would happen. Ninety
percent of the faculty would turn inward and talk with each other. Out on the edge were these little,
goofy people like me who didn’t want to talk to the faculty. I wanted to talk to the people in the
community. I had some people who were wired like that, but I also had to deal with a lot of Evergreen’s
traditional leadership, traditional faculty, guys like Charlie Teske and those guys. I had to kind of
reeducate them. I had a faculty meeting with all of your Tacoma colleagues the other day, so I don’t
know if I told you this. When I came to Evergreen, it was very clear amongst the founding faculty and
the people they hired that their image of the ideal student was at Reed.
Zaragoza: Right.
Kuehn: Young, white liberal. Liberal arts. Or Oberlin or a whole variety of other institutions like that.
They were having to swallow a very, very bitter pill because I was saying, “That might be your ideal, but
those kids aren’t coming here. They’re going to Reed or Oberlin. The profile of the students who are
coming here are in their thirties, finishing their college education, employed by the State of Washington
or Thurston County.”
They didn’t like hearing that. They didn’t want to teach those people. They didn’t want to teach
these adults. It sounded like a fucking community college. Right? Well, that’s where we’re getting our
students. Most of those students didn’t come to Evergreen because they wanted to. It was because
they had to. They were place bound.
I talked to a lot of faculty. I encouraged a lot of faculty to start doing more in the way of
community outreach. I put it squarely on the hands of the faculty. It was their job to get students and
to keep students.
This went on for months and months and months and months. Crazy, crazy time. I don’t know.
Do they still have Super Saturday?
Zaragoza: No, it was shut down around budget cut issues about five, 10 years ago, Duke. It’s been a
while. It’s time to revive some similar thing with less liability, but it’s no longer—
Kuehn: There are disputed claims about this, but I know the truth on this. Larry Stenberg, who was at
that time the Director of Admissions, claimed that he started Super Saturday. He didn’t. I did. He came

along. He was a major supporter and leader of it. I said to Evans and Eldridge, “We need to get the
community on this campus. They need to see what we have here.” People would drive by, and they
wouldn’t even drive in.
When I first came to Evergreen, I’d never get my haircut by somebody who knocks where I work.
Just won’t do it. I bet I went through nine barbers and hairdressers before I found somebody who didn’t
say anything negative about Evergreen. I don’t think they knew enough about it.
People believed it was full of hippies. They knew it was full of gays and lesbians. They knew it
was full of radicals and all sorts of stuff. I said, “You’ve got to get people out here to see it. They’ve got
to see what’s here.” So, we had Super Saturday in June, just before graduation. It was phenomenal. I
just followed people around all day long and I’d listen. “Gawd, they’ve got electron microscopes?
They’ve got this studio? They’ve got all this stuff?”
The only other thing people liked who knew about the college was the swimming pool, the
athletic facilities. I figured, if they liked that, they might like the rest of it. And it worked. It really
fucking worked! People’s eyes were opened. They saw that there was a resource here. A lot of them
left with the same misconceptions, but some didn’t.
I worked my ass off, and a lot of other people. I got a couple of great staff people to work with
me. I had a great secretary. The big day comes, the first day of registration, sometime in September. I
remember leaving my office, which was down in the lower corner of the Library Building and walking
through the downstairs part of the Library Building where it’s all tile. There were all these tables and
things set up for registration.
I went out that door and then I went up the stairs. It was about an hour before registration. I
came up the stairs that are part of the clock tower onto the main campus and I turned around, headed
towards that round lecture hall. There were 500 fucking students lined up to register.
Zaragoza: There you go.
Kuehn: I couldn’t believe it. Just couldn’t believe it. I almost broke into tears. It was the most tangible
outcome we ever could have imagined. I give people lots and lots of credit and people earned lots and
lots of credit. But on this one, I take a lot of credit for myself. Because Evans stood there and said,
“Hey, buddy, it’s on your shoulders.” I not only didn’t back down, I gave 110 percent to that.
Next fall, record enrollment. Turned the corner. Went up and up and up and up for years after
that, and then it topped out and started to drop a little bit again. It was an incredible experience in a
whole variety of ways. I had never been given a responsibility like that. I had never been forced to use


my statistical knowledge in that practical of a manner. I had never worked with a leader as powerful
and directive as Evans. It was literally a life-changing moment.
I had no desire to leave teaching. I did for a while, but I had no idea of my own efficacy. I know I
couldn’t publish much sociological stuff in journals. Bob Mitchell told me years earlier that I wasn’t as
good a sportswriter as I thought I was, but all of a sudden, I am a marketing guru.
In the midst of all of this, Evans had—because of his political background—relations with a
number of public relations firms. He knew a national public relations firm that had an office in Seattle, a
firm called Hill & Knowlton.
Zaragoza: [Laughing]
Kuehn: Do you know of Hill & Knowlton?
Zaragoza: Yeah, absolutely. They’re the firm that worked for Dick Cheney to sell the United States the
Iraq War.
Kuehn: Is that right? [laughing]
Zaragoza: Yes. They went on. I don’t know how they were then, Duke, but they went on to do some
really nasty, devious propaganda work for US militarism, empire, and some of the worst capitalists that
this country has ever seen. No, it’s really bad what Hill & Knowlton went on to do.
Kuehn: Are they still around?
Zaragoza: My assumption is, so I heard about them doing something recently also, but my most
knowledge comes from then. Maybe you remember the babies? The Iraqis were taking babies out of
incubators in Kuwait and throwing them on the floor. It was Hill & Knowlton that made up that lie.
Kuehn: Is that right? That’s very interesting. The guys I knew in Seattle, I certainly never understood
their politics, but they really, really liked me. They saw in me a talent and a skill that I certainly didn’t
even know or recognize, and they encouraged me. In fact, got me one of my first big consulting
Charles Wright Academy up here just a few miles from where I live was going through serious
enrollment problems. They referred Charles Wright to me, and Charles Wright hired me, and I worked
with Charles Wright for probably three or four years. Turned their enrollment around there. Very
similar stuff. That’s why I live here, because I was canvassing the neighborhood to find out what people
knew about Charles Wright and found the neighborhood where we live, and we ended up buying a
house here.


The end part of the story is OFM or someone required that the position that I was in, which was
a temporary position, become a permanent position. To do that, it had to be opened and advertised, so
if I were going to continue in that position, I was going to have to apply for it.
I went to Evans, and I said, “I don’t want to apply for it. I’ve made a lot of enemies in the
process of this. I think I’ve done a good job, but there are some people who don’t like me, and I think
might be out to get me. I don’t think I can open myself up to that. I don’t want to open myself up to
that. If you’ll appoint me, I’ll take it, but I’m not going to apply for it.” He said, “Duke, I can’t do that. I
don’t have that power.” I said, “Okay, no hard feelings.”
I went back to teaching. Didn’t miss what I had done at all. Loved teaching. I got assigned to a
great program, Political Ecology. Taught in that for a whole year. But I had tasted something, and it had
changed me in many fundamental ways. As much as I loved teaching, I also loved the stuff that I had
Get me clear here, buddy, I had no desire to become a dean, no desire to become an
administrator. I liked the kind of stuff that I was doing. I liked working and solving problems, stuff like
that. In a great moment, I’m downtown with Eldridge, and we’re meeting at OFM and we’re talking to a
guy who has been there for decades. He knows everything about college enrollments and all that stuff.
This guy takes zero bullshit.
Eldridge and I are meeting with him and we’re talking about what the college is doing. Blah blah
blah blah blah. This is probably a year or so after I had done the Super Sort stuff. This old guy, probably
younger than I am right now, looks at Eldridge and he points at me. “What’s the wizard think?”
[laughing] I have never had a higher compliment in my life. “The wizard.”
So, I got a taste of it, and that’s how I started a consulting business. I enjoyed working with real
problems in which there was a lot at stake. The college’s future, people’s jobs were at stake. That’s
what motivated me to do that job. That’s what I continued to do in one form or another. We can talk
about all that later on, but that’s how I started to consult. I think I made an interesting hybrid merge in
that even as a consultant, I never stopped being a teacher.
Zaragoza: That’s right.
Kuehn: I’d be talking to a CEO, and I’d still be teaching.
Zaragoza: That’s right.
Kuehn: It was just a big internship. That’s what I did for the next few years. I taught, started a
consulting business, little job here, little job there. Began to gain a reputation for being good at that.


Then they started an MPA program, and I was not part of the planning faculty. I don’t know
why. I never considered myself a particular expert in public administration. They started a program and
I taught in the first year. In fact, I just ran into one of my students the other day from that class.
I don’t know. Anyhow, Russ Lidman had started that program. It was his program. It was very
much designed along his lines. Lidman and I had kind of parallel careers if you want to think about it in
some ways. Russ decided to leave the directorship and take a sabbatical to Columbia or Peru,
somewhere in South America. I guess I was the most likely person to take over the directorship of the
program, which I did, and it was just as awful as I thought it would be. It was a deanship. It wasn’t
called a deanship, but it was the Dean of the Public Administration program. I carried with it all the
horror that I thought it would carry. I’m not a good dean. I’m not a bad administrator, a pretty good
manager, but not a good dean. I’m not good in that whole political environment.
Before Lidman had left—and Lidman did this really as a bridge to his next life at Evergreen—he
got the Legislature to fund a Public Policy Institute at Evergreen. Should I shut up?
Zaragoza: No. This is important and excellent stuff, Duke. I’m following along with the story the entire
way, and I think this is a good direction. Thank you for taking us there.
Kuehn: They started this Public Policy Institute, and the idea was that the Legislature would be able to
access academic research through this Public Policy Institute. Not just go to the U, as they always did,
but come to us, and then we would broker out around the state. It was a very ambitious, very clever
idea on Lidman’s part. Lidman, of course, envisioned that he would be the Director.
There was a big difference between Russ and I, though. Russ was interested in public policy as I
was, but Russ was also interested in politics. He was very active in the state Democratic Party’s
activities. The Legislature gave the college money to start this Public Policy Institute, but they didn’t hire
Lidman as the Director. He had disqualified himself politically.
I had done lots of stuff, but I had no political affiliation whatsoever. Most people were correct
in assuming I was a fairly liberal Democratic, and certainly, my association with Eldridge would suggest
that, but my association with Evans suggested maybe I had a leaning towards Republicans. I don’t know.
Nobody was ever able to label me, and I didn’t do anything to label myself. Again, that also made me a
little less popular amongst my Evergreen faculty, because Evergreen faculty were very politically active
and very politically vocal. That just wasn’t me. Never has been.
Lidman goes off to Peru and they hire a director, a guy—Len Mandelbaum, I think—who was the
former Director of the ACLU office in Seattle. Totally the wrong guy to hire. Didn’t know Olympia, didn’t
know Evergreen, commuted from Seattle, didn’t understand academia particularly. Probably good at

ACLU stuff. Just a catastrophe. Because I’m the MPA Director, I’m on the Board of Directors of the
Institute, and Len is in trouble within a few weeks. Within a few months, it’s clear the Institute is not
getting anything done, and Len’s not making any progress to do that.
Evans had left because he took over whoever retired as senator and the collegd appointed, I
don’t know, somebody, Olander maybe, as President—I forget who it was—in the interim. The Provost,
Patrick Hill, and a couple of other people suggested I should take over the Institute as an acting director,
which I gladly took because it meant I could get out of being the MPA Director.
So, I became the acting director of the Public Policy Institute, which was located up on the third
floor of the Seminar Building. Small staff. Small budget. I made a couple of decisions that cost me in
the long run. I would never, ever again take an acting position. That’s crazy.
Two, I’m a pretty practical guy. I was going to save the Institute like I saved the college. The
only way I was going to save the Institute is if we started getting stuff out that people could see and read
and look at. I commissioned a whole bunch of studies and got a whole bunch of things going. They
were pretty superficial studies. They had to be done quickly and they had to be done dramatically. I did
something on sex offenders, sexy kind of stuff. Made enough of a splash to get the Legislature to say we
were productive, at least.
Lidman is sitting down in Peru, and he is pissed. He feels I’ve stolen his job, so he starts lobbying
for from afar to get his job back. I’m in just an acting position. When Lidman returned, I should have
said, “Russ, I’m going to step aside.” But you know me. I don’t quit. They ended up opening a search
for a regular, non-acting position. I applied. Lidman applied. A couple of other people applied. It was a
fait accompli. Lidman was going to get it this time. My track record at the Institute, while it was
productive, wasn’t impressive. In the meantime, while I’d been at the Institute—this is probably about
after 18 months—I had not changed my political activity. I didn’t kiss up to legislators. I didn’t do that
So, Lidman got the position. The Provost pissed me off and I never hardly spoke to him again
the rest of the time he was there.
Zaragoza: Which Provost was this?
Kuehn: Patrick Hill. Hill had been my supporter, but he refused to be my supporter in this search. He
said he couldn’t support one Evergreen faculty member over another. That’s crazy.
In June of whatever year that was, I found out that I was going back to teaching in the fall. This
time I’m not excited about the prospect of it at all, and I am pissed off at Evergreen. I remember


standing in the kitchen and saying to Kathleen, “I’m going to see how many consulting contracts I can
get between now and September. If I can get enough, I’m outta here.”
My wife is a banker. Has been all her life. Very, very sensibly minded. She supported me, but I
can remember going to her and saying, “Honey, I’ve got to do this. I’ve got to get a personal computer.”
I laid out what it cost to get one. The banker in her looked at me and she said, “Is that going to be like
all that other shit you’ve got in the garage you never use?” [laughter] She gave me a budget, and I went
to—I forget what the place is called, it’s like Costco—and bought a Commodore 64 computer.
Zaragoza: Oh, you went to RadioShack then.
Kuehn: Something like that, yeah.
Zaragoza: I had one of those, too, by the way.
Kuehn: I beat that machine to death. I took the bulk of my budget and bought a good printer, because
people couldn’t tell what wrote it, but they could see what printed it. And I started working. I did a
huge study—that Charles Wright study—huge survey of the community. Did it on, I don’t know, 12
different floppy disks. I’m flipping them in and out. It was fun. It was resourceful.
I had three clients, and I went to each of them, and I said, “I’m not asking you for business. I
would never do that to you. I am asking for your help. If you see anybody you think could use my
assistance, just send them my way, please.”
I used to have a big chart. I ended up with hundreds of clients at the end of all of this. I could
take almost any one of those clients, Tony, and track to back, client to client to client, and 90 percent
went back to those three people, indirectly. They had no idea it was going to have this impact 20 years
later, but it did.
I started the consulting business. Thank gawd, I didn’t have enough business to quit teaching, so
I went back and taught, and taught in a magnificent program with Judy Bayard, called The Business of
Computers. She invented this program, taught it one year, and then brought me in. We had a group of
upper-division students. She did all the computing stuff. I did all the marketing stuff. They worked in
teams, and their job over the year was to create and market a piece of software. And they did, quite
Zaragoza: Is this late ‘80s, Duke?
Kuehn: Yeah. I’d just gotten married to Kathleen in ’84, so this would have been about ’86-’87. That
program changed my life in a lot of ways, too, because it really got me into computing. I ended up
writing a big database program for Charles Wright Academy.


But what really happened was that learning with Judy—learning about systems analysis,
learning about data flow diagrams, learning all that stuff about organizations from a computer scientist’s
perspective—just absolutely supplemented, augmented, everything I knew as a social scientist. Really,
really, really changed my understanding and perspective on things, and made me more effective as a
teacher, more effective as a consultant.
I rode that train for a long time. Then I don’t know exactly how or why, I knew about the
Tacoma Program. The only person I really knew up there was Joye [Hardiman]. I knew Maxine
[Mimms], but not well. I don’t know this, but I’ve always felt there was a certain degree of rivalry,
because at the same time she started that Tacoma Program, that’s when I was starting the program in
Vancouver. The college was sending lots and lots of resources to Vancouver and very little resources to
Tacoma, so I have a hunch . . . I don’t know, I think she always had a sort of funny feeling about me. We
overcame that over time.
Somebody—it must have been Joye—invited me to come up and do a guest lecture in Tacoma. I
was sold. Those were the students I wanted to teach and the faculty I wanted to teach with. I did a
couple more guest lectures over a year or so, and then finally, I guess, I went and talked to some of the
faculty. Willie Parson was there in those days. Artee Young. Barbara Laners. I asked if they would be
willing to accept me as a colleague. Much to my delight, they said “yes.” Golden.
I transferred to Tacoma. My reasons for doing so were not altogether pedagogic. All our kids
had just graduated from high school and were off to college. Neither Kathleen nor I were that enamored
of Olympia. We wanted to move closer to Seattle. I was now, as a consultant, flying 100,000 miles a
year. Up until five years ago, when I retired, for 20 years in a row, I flew 100,000 miles a year or more.
Zaragoza: Wow.
Kuehn: With United. I had high standing with United. Kathleen had to drive all the way up from
Tumwater to the airport and bring me all the way back. That was an hour and a half sometimes, so we
started looking for someplace in between. We liked this neighborhood—which I had found when I was
working for Charles Wright—and bought a house here. Half the distance to the airport. Also, a long
drive to Olympia, so teaching in Tacoma had a number of other advantages, too. But primarily, I really
felt at home there.
Zaragoza: When did you start teaching at Tacoma, Duke?
Kuehn: I want to say . . . 2000. 1999-2000-2001. I came when it was still in the old building, so right at
that time. I think I was there for about 10 years.
Zaragoza: Our stories are very parallel.

Kuehn: Are they?
Zaragoza: Yeah. I was invited up by Gilda to do some guest lectures. I rotated up a year. I went back to
Olympia, and then there was an opening. I think Dr. Young was transferring to the Olympia Campus,
and Gilda contacted me and said, “Hey, we’d like you to teach up at Tacoma permanently.” I did nearly
10 years at the Tacoma Campus.
Kuehn: I think you were in my office.
Zaragoza: Yeah, yeah.
Kuehn: That’s a great office. Should have two plaques on it. Gilda Sheppard is without a doubt the
most exceptional person I’ve ever taught with.
Zaragoza: That’s incredible.
Kuehn: I’m so excited with her current filmmaking success.
Zaragoza: Yes, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.
Kuehn: Yeah, nobody deserves it more. I think I told them this story, not you. When I got to Tacoma,
many students of color were suspicious of me. Who’s this white guy? What’s he doing here? What’s
his game all about? I really had to work hard to gain their trust and credibility, and I think I did. Some of
the white students thought, oh, here’s somebody who’s a secret supporter of ours. Well, they learned
that wasn’t the case.
I was talking to the Tacoma faculty about this the other day. In preparation for this planning
retreat we did, I asked them serious questions. One of the questions was, “Assume you came back 100
years from now, and you walked into the building, and saw that plaque that says, ‘Enter to learn, depart
to serve.’ There’s a plaque underneath, and there are the names of every faculty member who ever
taught here. After each name, there’s a little epigram that describes, summarizes, their life as a Tacoma
faculty member.”
When I said this, I didn’t realize that a lot of people didn’t understand it or didn’t see the joke. I
said, “After me, it’ll say ‘Take your head out of your ass.’” Do you know this story?
Zaragoza: Please tell it.
Kuehn: One student, a white kid, early twenties—bright kid, nice kid, community college transfer. How
the hell he ever ended up at Evergreen, I’m not sure. He comes into my office one day, and I think he
thought he had a sympathetic ear. He said, “Dr. Duke, I just don’t get it. All this stuff about race all the
time. All this stuff about blacks, black history. Geez. It’s on and on and on.”
I forget what his name was. I looked at him and I said, “Mike, you’ve got to take your head out
of your ass.” [laughing] In all my years of teaching, I had never, ever, ever said anything like that to a

student, but I guess I had reached my point of impatience about that. He went and complained to Joye.
I think, in all the years I taught, that’s the only time I ever had a complaint lodged against me.
Zaragoza: That was a worthwhile complaint to have lodged.
Kuehn: I felt so. I felt it was a moment for me. Which reminds me, I’ve got to tell you this story before
we go any further. I got thinking about this after we hung up the other day. My very worst ever faculty
Somewhere in the middle of all of this, I’m teaching a group contract on public policy. It’s a
good course. The more I did that kind of stuff, the more I integrated it into my teaching. It was
absolutely true. The best part of my life in some ways professionally, there was no barrier between my
teaching and my consulting. I’d teach a class on Tuesday. I go work for the client on Wednesday. I
come back and teach in a class on Thursday. What I talked about in class on Tuesday, I did on
Wednesday. What I talked about in class on Thursday was what I’d done on Wednesday. I ended up
creating a series of courses all on my own.
I’m teaching this public policy class. It’s one quarter, and it was really good. They did some
good stuff. A lot of legislative simulation stuff, which I tried several times. It’s faculty evaluation week,
and they’re coming in. I always followed the protocol. I would listen to your self-evaluation. I would
provide you my evaluation of you. We’d negotiate and talk about it. Then when that was done and
signed off, I would ask you to read your evaluation of me. I’d always ask students to read it out loud. I
think I wanted them to carry the weight of it. I still have this somewhere.
It was an older woman, a mature woman, in her thirties or forties. She was Canadian, we’ve had
a number of arguments in class about Canadian versus American politics. My evaluation began like this.
I’m sitting at my desk and she’s sitting in the chair next to my desk reading my evaluation. “I cannot
comprehend why The Evergreen State College continues to employ Dr. Kuehn.” And then it got worse.
I mean, she just ripped me right, left, up, down, in and out. Like every student evaluation, I sat
there and listened to it and nodded. She finished, and I looked at her and I said, “Well, it sounds as
though you weren’t too pleased with me this quarter.” She looked at me and she said, “You’re exactly
like my ex-husband.” [laughing] For years, that was the first evaluation in my portfolio.
Zaragoza: Over the years, I had students project all kinds of relationships on me, sometimes their
parents, I was like their parents. Sometimes like an ex-partner. One time I had a Tacoma student who
said, “You’re just like my son.”
Kuehn: Oh, my gawd!

Zaragoza: I had all three generations I inhabited for people. [laughing] Which is a testament to the
many generations that we get at Evergreen, Olympia and Tacoma both.
Kuehn: Sure. And a testament to the degree in which—although I didn’t agree with her, there was
always a level of intimacy in the teaching in which it would be possible for a student to conclude there is
some relationship, for better or worse, between this person and someone else close in my life. But she
nailed me.
I came to Tacoma, and I did that, and I began to realize that consulting began to get so large
because it was the case that I was finishing class at Tuesday night, driving to the airport, flying all night,
working in Chicago the next day for two days, and then coming back. It got just overwhelming. And
economically, I couldn’t support it. I could make as much in one day of consulting as I could in a month
of teaching.
Finally, like you, I was always one of those faculty who was always available in my office for
anything. You want to come in and talk about the boyfriend you’re breaking up with, or your dog you
lost, or whatever. I realized that I didn’t have time to do that anymore, and I wasn’t doing that
One day, I was coming back—I always taught in that room upstairs that was kind of my room,
my public policy room—and a student came to me after class and said, “Dr. Duke, could you do me a
favor? I need your signature on this form so I can get a reduction on my auto insurance.” I said, “Sure,
come on downstairs.” We walked downstairs into my office, and I signed it.
We were just chatting about what she was doing, where she was going. She looked at me and
she said, “You know, this is the most you and I have ever talked.” I felt that big. Because that had been
my life. My life had been sitting there listening to you tell me about your auto insurance.
I came home and I told Kathleen, “I think I have to leave Evergreen.” I could have done it for a
few more years, and I don’t think anybody would have complained because I did a hell of a good job as a
teacher, I think, and as a colleague, but I was shorting the students in some ways, at least shorting them
in terms of what I’d done in the past.
And I was so tired of reading papers. I told my students, “I have sleep apnea. If you turn in a
paper and get it back, and you find, on one of the pages, a red line that goes all the way from the top to
the bottom, that tells you I fell asleep.” Not a good sign. [laughter]
Zaragoza: Before we move on to the fulltime consulting work—because I really want to hear the work
you did post-Evergreen—can you tell us any other stories or moments or programs or activities that you


did while you were at Evergreen Tacoma? I really want to capture your life at Evergreen Tacoma before
we move on to post-Evergreen.
Kuehn: Interesting question. I’m glad that I’d had 20 or so years teaching in Olympia before I was there,
because as I understand the concept, the Tacoma Program is a true coordinated studies program as any
I ever taught in.
I have to tell you one more thing back in Olympia. I was very fortunate to be invited by Chuck
Nisbet, who had been part of the original faculty—he was an economist, and somebody—Ginny
Ingersoll—recruited him right away for the management program. Very, very straightforward, hard,
good critical thinker. Chuck came up with a program that he titled Problems Without Solutions? It was
a program for—I forget what they called first-year programs—but a first-year program for students new
to Evergreen. We taught it twice. The second time we taught it—and it was Problems Without
The first time we taught it, each quarter we focused on one geopolitical region. The first year
we taught it, it started with South Africa, went to Palestine-Israel, and on to Northern Ireland. We were
fortunate [to have] a psychologist with us, and we had a rotating faculty member who came from that
region. It was an incredible program and provided for me perhaps the most extraordinary moment of
teaching in my life.
We would look at these geopolitical regions. We’d look at the history, we’d look at the
economics, the politics, the culture, the literature, the arts. It was a powerful program. In the quarter
that we did Israel-Palestine, I was tasked to do some of the literature for Israel. I studied around, talked
to some librarians, stuff like that, and came up with the name of a poet whose name I since forget, but it
was a very, very prominent poet, at least in relatively recent Israeli history.
His poetry is very good and very evocative of what it meant to be a Jew, what it meant to be a
Jew in Israel. I wanted to have the students hear the poetry, and much of it was written in—I’m not
Jewish and I don’t know Hebrew or Yiddish, whatever that language is, so I called the local synagogue
and talked to the rabbi and got the rabbi to agree to come out and read some of this poetry. I was kind
of excited about all of this. The day of this lecture, at the last minute, I got a call from the rabbi who had
fallen sick or something and he couldn’t come—she couldn’t come.
It was left to this Irish Catholic kid here to read that poetry. I think I completed my bar mitzvah.
There I am, standing in the lecture hall in Olympia, reading Hebrew poetry to 100 undergraduates.
Never missed a beat. Had no one to question whether or not it was right or wrong, but I did it.

Zaragoza: I just wanted to comment, Duke. In some ways, that’s a testament to what’s possible at
Evergreen, I think.
Kuehn: Yeah, I guess. I don’t know the degree to which I destroyed any of the beauty of the poetry, but
I tried. I was thinking about that while I was thinking about our last conversation the other day, and it
came up in the discussion I had with the Tacoma faculty the other day. As part of my professional work,
I’d get organizations to write and commit to mission statements. But the mission statements are the
least glamorous, exciting mission statements you’ve ever read in your life, because I learned early on,
mission statements are what you do and what you get. Quite frankly, the mission statement for one
college or university is the same as another one. It should be. Just as the mission statement for one
brake shop is pretty much like the mission statement of another brake shop.
Everything else, in terms of planning—the vision, the values—all of that defines what makes you
distinct. But the mission better be, as Tom Peters used to call it, sticking to the knitting. This is what we
do, how we invest our resources, and this is what we expect to happen.
I was sharing that with the Tacoma faculty and then I said, “The mission of the Tacoma faculty is
the mission for any educational institution. We teach. They learn.” You can modify that however you
want to, but the basic foundation of any—whether it’s the UW or Harvard or Pierce County Community
Somebody added “We all learn.” Not just the students. I thought about that, and I thought
about the enormous amounts of things that I learned at Evergreen—not just academic stuff, which I did,
but all the different things that [were] exposed to me to [in order] to learn all the things that I came to. I
think I shared this with you the other day. I advised my granddaughter, as she goes through college, if
you’ve got a choice, and you’re lucky enough to have a choice, take the choice that opens more doors.
That’s precisely what happened in my life. If I had followed the safe path, “Nah, I don’t want to
do that institutional research stuff,” if I said to Dan Evans, “I don’t want to take care of that enrollment
stuff,” if I had said to Judy, “I don’t want to learn how to do systems analysis,” my life would have been
just fine. It would have just tracked right on down. I would have been the perfect faculty member to
teach sociology at Cal State Long Beach.
I turned out something quite different. I’m not sure better, but I certainly turned out something
much different than I would have ever imagined or intended that I thought I could be. I guess to have
the literal chutzpah [laughing] to read that poetry says something about what it means to be an
Evergreen faculty member.


That now does connect back to the question you asked me about Tacoma’s students, students
of various sexual orientations—what I thought their goals were, I’m not sure were correct. They were
my goals. I know what my ambitions have been in life, but I don’t know what ambitions necessarily a
gay, black musician has. I can relate at one level, but on other levels, I can’t.
The longer I taught in Tacoma, the less I became directive. Here’s stuff. You can use it. I don’t
know how you’re going to use it. I know you can use it if you want to use it. It’s there for you to use. I
think I saw myself as a purveyor of opportunity, but I’m not sure what those opportunities were, how
they were perceived, or whether they’re even the right ones.
I do know that I had the satisfaction while I taught it in Tacoma, I’d teach something in a class,
and a week later, a student would come back and say, “Dr. Duke, I work for the Postal Service. We had a
meeting the other day and they were talking about something, and I raised my hand. I mentioned
something we’d talked about in class. Afterwards, my boss came up to me and he said, “Bob, you’re
pretty sharp. I’ve got my eye on you.” [laughing]
So, I had that feeling of satisfaction, a feeling that I helped. I did help people follow their
dreams or ambitions or opportunities. That’s what Tacoma was mostly like for me. It really forced me
to question my own assumptions about students sometimes—what they were doing, or what they
weren’t doing, or why they were doing it. It forced me to acknowledge, without guilt, that I was born
into a society of white privilege, and I took advantage of that privilege.
But it had a profound impact, driven home by the fact that my one of my daughters a few
years ago had a child that is of mixed race. When I look at that kid, I don’t see a black kid, or a
mixed-race kid, I see one of my grandchildren. But I am sensitive to the fact that the term Black Lives
Matter has a certain different implication to me than it did before. A lot of things that could happen to
her that wouldn’t happen to my other granddaughters or her sister.
I guess—and I certainly didn’t think so at the time—the 10 years in Tacoma represented for me
a point of arrival. I was now in my fifties, early sixties. It was arrival in terms of my teaching, which I had
begun with a single desire to help students succeed in whatever their ambitions were. That certainly
came to full fruition there.
It’s also when my consulting came to full fruition. I can remember sitting in an airplane once
and was flying somewhere over west Texas, and I looked down 35,000 feet and I thought, I did what I set
out to do. I wanted to become a nationally known, successful consultant, and I’ve done it.
Tacoma represents for me personally and professionally—I don’t want to say a point of arrival,
but certain things started to become complete. Does that answer the question?

Zaragoza: Yes, sir. For sure. Now I want to go deeper into that work, Duke. Do you want to tell us a
little bit about your consulting work, what you do, and the kinds of impact you have in your role as a
nationally known consultant?
Kuehn: In a very narrow realm. How many of these do we do?
Zaragoza: Today will be it.
Kuehn: Oh, no-o-o-o.
Zaragoza: Unless you really want to come back for another one for sure.
Kuehn: Yeah, I’ve got one more. I’ve got more stories than just the stories today. We’re not going to
make it today. Okay?
Zaragoza: Okay.
Kuehn: You’re nurturing my ego. When I was in graduate school, consultants were looked down on by
my faculty. They were looked down on in the same way that liberal arts teachers were looked down on.
You went to research four-year institutions and did the stuff there, so I never even thought about it,
really. I always thought about the practicalities when I taught, even at Riverside, and I’d done a little bit
of public policy work, and so I saw myself initially as a source of knowledge in public policy research.
That’s what academics do, right? Legislators call up and they want to know, what are the possibilities in
terms of dealing with this or dealing with that, as we’ve seen so abundantly through the whole Covid
That’s how I started out. Here’s where Evergreen fits into the picture and maybe put a twist on
it. To teach at Evergreen, to survive at Evergreen, I had to learn how to work very effectively with
groups—seminars, or teaching teams, or whatever—and I knew some of that stuff theoretically, but I
was very challenged. I was proud of the fact that I think I always had pretty good seminars.
The concept of group dynamics became very real and significant to me. I got known by the
secretaries. This happens all the time. People will call the college and say, “Do you have anybody there
that could help me? I’m getting bees and I need help with my bees.” Or people would call up and say,
“I’ve got this organizational problem. Could I get some help?”
A lot of the calls that came in initially for me were public policy calls. One expertise that I gained
in graduate school was in an area called evaluation research, which was very nicely timed at the same
time that Lyndon Johnson was doing the War on Poverty, so a number of sociologists focused on
developing and designing research programs that could look at a large social action program and
determine whether or not it had any impact over time. Teenaged pregnancies, or quitting smoking, or

I became an expert, and that’s a lot of the original consulting I’d do. I’d get a call from
somebody downtown and they’d say, “The Feds are requiring us to put together a bit of an evaluation.
Can you help us with that?” I said, “Sure.”
I’d go down and I’d sit in somebody’s office, the director of some sort of program, and my first
question was, “What is your program? What are your goals and objectives?” They’d stare back at me,
and they’d go, “Well, that’s why we called you. We need some help in determining that.” I said, “You’re
getting millions and millions of dollars, and you don’t have any goals or objectives?” “Well, not really.”
I realized that there were billions and billions of dollars being spent at every governmental level
for programs that were fundamentally nothing but doing things, not necessarily achieving anything
except just doing stuff. And they did lots of stuff. They spent lots of money, but they never took the
time to figure out whether they had any results or not. That astounded me. That’s how I started doing
strategic planning. I developed a technique and got very expert at it. got bigger and bigger
organizations to set goals.
But there was another element to this. I met a guy, may he rest in peace, whose name was Jack
Morris, ended up a very good friend of mine. Jack was the head of Information Services at the
Department of Social and Health Services. Big, big data processing office in a big data world. Right?
I started saying that secretaries knew that I would take these calls. I’d get them. “Hi, I’m Jack
Morris of the Information Services division of DSHS. Do you work with groups?” I said, “Yes.” “I need
some help.”
Jack had this really dysfunctional, crazy management team. He was a good manager, but they
were just nuts. I’d sit in on their meetings, and there were nine or 10 of them. They’d start off cordial
enough, and then literally, within 45 minutes of every meeting, they’d be arguing with each other,
threatening each other. It was horrible.
I figured out how to do that, figured out how to help them. So, I learned a lot of these group
dynamics at Evergreen, and some other stuff about organizational settings, about how to deal with that
stuff. I worked a lot with groups that had conflict or groups that were struggling or groups that were all
sorts of stuff. I had a community college one time that had major gossip problems. Faculty and staff
were all gossiping so much it undercut their ability to do teamwork altogether. I went through and I
fixed all that up.
If somebody called me up and said, “Could you help me with this?” I’d always say, “Yes.” Unless
it involved nuclear physics or dentistry, I could figure it out. And I did, I think largely because I’m a good
analytic, but I’m also a good listener. Right from the very beginning, I assumed there is no reality. There

are many realities, and what I could do is maybe bring all those realities together into some sort of
coherent whole.
I discovered the value of diversity. If I walked into a room and the management team was all
white males, easy job. Lots of agreement. Lots of consensus. If I walked in and there were people of all
sorts of different types, lots of creativity, lots of differences potential conflict, but boy, it got to be so
that if I walked into a room and I didn’t see some diversity, I knew we were in trouble.
Oh! I’ve got to tell you that story, too. It gets back to Tacoma. I might have told you the first
part of this. I was invited to speak to the managers of, I think, the Department of Licensing. Big meeting
room, lecture hall in downtown Olympia on the campus. Most of the time when I speak and lecture, I
don’t have any notes. I just do it off the cuff, I have good enough memory and good enough cognitive
organization to be able to do that.
I don’t know what made me say this. I looked at this group and I said, “I’m a racist.” [laughing]
Then I went on to explain, how could I not be a racist? I grew up in America in 20th Centuty California. I
thought all those Mexicans lived in Fullerton instead of Anaheim because they wanted to. I told them, “I
don’t want to be a racist, and I certainly don’t want my kids to be racists. We’ve got to talk about
confronting that.”
I don’t think I told them this story, but it’s a story that Gilda knows well. I had grown up in a
totally white environment most of my life. Quite frankly, I was afraid of black people. Walking down the
sidewalk and see a black guy coming towards me I’d get uneasy.
I knew I had to stop that, so if I’m walking down the street in Olympia and I see a strange black
person approaching me, you know what I’d do? I’d smile. I’d say, “Hey, how are you doing?” You know
what happens when you smile at people? Ninety-five percent of the time they smile back. Selfreinforcing. Right? Walking through an airport, sit on an airplane, sit next to a black person. “Hey, how
are you doing? Good to see you.” “Good to see you, too.” I got so I’d look forward to running into the
black people. [laughing] It was self-reinforcing. It was pleasant. It was good.
I still—and I’m sure some people think I’m nuts—when I’m standing in the grocery line—I did
this. I went through a Starbucks the other day and the barista who served me in the drive-through was
black. I said, “Come here. I want to whisper something to you.” She leaned out the window. I said,
“I’m really happy to see a person of color working here at Starbucks.” She said, “Oh.” That’s what
people always do. “Oh, really?” “Yeah, I like living in a diverse society.”
The pharmacist, who was a Muslim, I guess—she wore a hijab—she was filling my prescription
one day and I leaned towards her, and I said, “Despite what you hear, I’m really glad you’re here in

America.” People must think I’m nuts, but I feel really good letting people know, hey, we’re all part of
the same place here. This is my society. I like it like this.
In dealing with groups now, that’s the approach I took. There were no right or wrong or good or
bad or whatever. There could be, and certainly there were perceptions of that. My job was to build a
coherent whole. A community. I discovered that the trick to that had to do with values. As I told you
before, every organization has fundamentally the same mission. Do this, get that. It’s the values that
make a difference.
I used to do an exercise with students. I’d say, “Go into two different brake shops and come
back and tell me what you could learn about those two different brake shops just by the stories they
told you, just by the values that you saw, just by the literature that was laid out or the parking or
I learned that values are what make a difference in any organization, be it a family or a nation
state. You either have them or you don’t. You either have consensus or agreement around what you
think is important, so I spent a lot of time working with finding, developing, building agreement around
values, building a priority around values. What’s the most important thing here? Profit? Clearly, in a lot
of places.
I went into this store to get some printer ink. I don’t know why I went to this store, an
independent kind of place. Turns out it was run by a husband and wife who had immigrated from
England and had started this store. The husband was serving me, and he was kind of a surly guy. You
could see the wife in the back. And I could see across the counter through a door a piece of poster
paper, and on it, it said “Mission Statement.” [laughing] This is what it’s like to work with someone like
I said to the husband, “Is that your mission statement?” He said, “Yes.” “It’s got a problem.”
“What’s that?” His wife hears this, and she appears from the back and is listening to me. “I saw your
mission statement goes on and on and on and talks about what you do. That part’s good, but you’re
missing something.” “What’s that?” “Are you going to give me these ink capsules free?” “No, of course
not.” “You should add you do this for a profit.” “Well, I don’t know about that.” “If you don’t put it on
for profit, I guarantee you’re not going to be back here next when I come.”
His wife comes around and she says, “What do you mean?” “There’s nothing wrong with
making a profit. It’s a fair outcome. If you said you’re going to cheat me for profit, that’s another
question. But if you’re going to provide me a service, and you do it so that you can be profitable, then I


can come back and you can support yourself and build a business, that’s fine by me. She went and got a
marker pen, and at the bottom wrote “For profit.”
You’ve got to clear abut values. You’ve got to be clear about what’s important. Evergreen
Tacoma is going to go through a really, really tough conversion trying to bring in first- and second-year
students. The only way they can navigate that is if they have a very clear sense of what their values are,
and what the priorities of those values are, and what can be compromised and what can’t be
That’s what I ended up doing. I ended up working a lot with closely held or family-owned
businesses, commercial real estate offices in particular because they’d often get all confused and
couldn’t find their way. I’d try to get them back on track, try to get them to move forward. I didn’t
always succeed.
I worked with some large organizations, too. I worked with some corporations. The biggest
client I had towards the end was Golden Corral, the buffet restaurant company, which turned out to be
a great company, really great people. It was a perfect fit between me and them. They’re in a lot of
trouble now, financially.
As I told you before, I followed the same logic that I had with students. I became friends with
my clients. I became friends with my students. I recognize that that sometimes compromised my
objectivity, but not much. I felt as a teacher or as a consultant, it was my responsibility to tell the truth,
as I saw it. Sometimes that wasn’t popular, but I never saw that as a threat to a friendship. In fact, I saw
it in some ways as an element of friendship.
A lot of people didn’t hire me, and they didn’t hire me, and they didn’t hire me for a good
reason, because I’d come in and tell them what I saw. I didn’t expect them to necessarily agree, but
that’s what I thought I was hired for. I thought I was hired to come in and “Here’s what I see. You can
disagree. We can argue about it. In fact, you may be right and I may be wrong, but the fact of the
matter is in that dialogue between what I saw and what you think it is, there’s a reality somewhere.”
I got to be known as a trusted advisor. It was not uncommon for me to be brought in to deal
with a very discrete problem within an organization and be invited back, often for many years, to deal
with other issues as they arose.
I used to tell people I’d often be sitting in a restaurant at lunch with a client, and sometimes
somebody would come up to the table to see their friend, and the client would say, “Let me introduce
you to Duke Kuehn, who is working with us right now.” They would struggle for trying to encapsulate


what I did or who I was. More than once, I was pleased that people would say, “He’s a friend of the
organization.” That really pretty much summarized what I was trying to do.
I had some great experiences. I got to travel literally all over the world. Met some terrific
people. Had some wonderful experiences. Made a number of friends, who I still have today. I still get
to see them, although electronically, we’re still connected. It was the culmination of my teaching and
continued to be a source of my learning.
That’s what I did.
Zaragoza: Thank you for going into that, Duke. I have one final related question for today, and then we
can figure out when to come back for you to get into some new aspects. The question I have leads right
from what you were talking about. You talked about your consulting work as the culmination of your
teaching career. You talked about parallels between the way that you worked with students and the
way you work with clients. I’m curious if you could talk to us specifically about how your experiences—
teaching and administering and organizing and marketing at Evergreen—how that work at Evergreen,
how Evergreen influenced your work as a consultant. How do you see Evergreen reflected in your work?
Kuehn: Totally. Absolutely. Again, if I think about my life, I can’t imagine what would have happened if
I hadn’t gone to Evergreen. Would I have done some of these things? Maybe. Would I have done them
in the way that I do them? Certainly not. Evergreen was such a proving ground, testing ground, learning
environment for me to develop techniques and skills and perspectives that I can’t imagine I would have
derived any other place.
When I first started to consult, a very popular fad was teamwork. I made quite a dent in my
market by taking what I’d learned at Evergreen about teamwork and telling clients, “It’s a lot harder
than you think. It’s just not something you make a commitment to. It’s something you have to work at
constantly. In early stages, it’s harder to do things in teams than it is to do them as individuals.”
I only saw that—I came to learn the difficulties teaching in faculty teams. By the time I finished
at Evergreen, I think I taught with 75 different faculty members. I was forced to develop a sensitivity to
what it meant to work with somebody whose values were often very different. And I never, ever quit a
faculty team or quit on a faculty. Some, I didn’t like. Some, I wouldn’t teach with again. But I felt a
commitment to see that all the way through.
Tell you a story, not exactly pertinent. It goes back to something earlier. I had this concept of
teamwork and collaboration that had been a curiosity and a problematic one for me for a long time,
particularly the issue of leadership, so I really went and did a heavy library research on leadership.


Leadership became a major topic in American social sciences, right about the time, after World War II,
during World War II.
I read all the literature and I was not satisfied with it at all, because the major finding was there
is no consistent style of leadership. Leadership is decided by the needs of a group, and that good
leaders adapt, like they would to an audience. That didn’t seem right to me. Having worked with
somebody like Dan Evans or other people like that, who had some very clear traits and skills that I would
have associated with leadership, bothered me.
I did training on leadership. I did all sorts of stuff on leadership. When working with it—and
there’s a chapter I forgot I’ve got to tell you about. It was a training that Evergreen did for the State that
I was involved with.
Anyhow, I’m frustrated with this leadership literature. I think I was teaching in Management in
the Public Interest one year. We were teaching downstairs in the Library Building, one of those rooms
that held 40, 50 students. I’ll never forget this moment, standing in front of the class—there was a little
podium there—teaching students. There’s a student back in right center field. His name was Patrick. I
wish I could remember his last name because I owe him.
I was talking about leadership and I’m confessing to the students, “I can’t come up with right
understanding of this.” Patrick raises his hand. “Dr. Duke, I recently had an experience. Do you think
this qualifies as leadership?” I said, “What’s that?”
He says, “A bunch of buddies and I were up skiing, and it was right at the end of the day. We
were all on our last run, coming down the hill, and one of my friends falls and breaks his leg. Sun’s going
down. We all ski over to him. Everybody’s standing around looking at him. He’s in pain. We know
we’ve got to get him off the mountain. Something’s got to get done. I’m standing there and waiting for
somebody to step forward, take over, and nobody does, so I realized, I guess I’ve got to do it.”
“Bingo! That’s what leadership is. It’s a recognition of the need to step forward even though
you don’t necessarily want to do it. That’s the call.” It changed my whole thinking from that point on.
I’ve written tons about it since then. Owe that kid a ton.
The thing I left out, teaching in the MPA program, Lidman calls me and says, “The Department of
Personnel has called. They want us to put together a training program for career executives, sort of
mid-level executives moving up into leadership roles. Can we do that?” “Sure.”
I put together and design this thing, got the faculty involvded and for two years, we offered this
career executive program. Must have easily trained 30 a month, so I guess we did 400 or 500 mid-level


managers in the State of Washington, teaching about leadership and policy analysis. Just a kind of
condensed version of the MPA program. Great experience.
In fact, I’ve got to tell you this story. I know this is a public record, but I didn’t do anything bad
here. You know how it is when a teacher gives a really good lecture, a really good program. Afterwards,
people come up and they want to talk to you.
Zaragoza: Yep.
Kuehn: Ask you questions and congratulate you. We had just finished. This program was three or four
days long. All day. I’m standing up in front with a couple of Evergreen faculty. Some people come up to
me at the end of the program, and there’s a very attractive woman executive. She says, “I need to talk
to you.” She gestures me to step aside. I walk over there, and she said, “I need to tell you what an
exceptional teacher you are.” I smiled. She said, “When you lecture, I become sexually aroused.”
[laughter] I didn’t know what to say. I just said, “That’s a hell of a compliment. Thank you.” [laughing]
Wisely walked away from the situation. I’m not sure how that fits into the Me Too Movement, but I
didn’t do anything except give a lecture.
Zaragoza: I hear you, Duke. My guess is that wasn’t the only time that happened.
Kuehn: It was the only time anybody ever expressed it to me, believe me.
Zaragoza: I think we’ve got to stop for today. I’m glad to come back another day, if that would work for
you, and if you’ve got more things to tell.
Kuehn: Yes.
Zaragoza: I’m going to stop recording now.


Duke Kuehn
Interviewed by Anthony Zaragoza
The Evergreen State College oral history project
July 20, 2021
Zaragoza: Thank you so much. When we left off, we were talking about the emergence of your
consulting business from your work at Evergreen. You mentioned how you were able to parallel these
two things, things that you were doing on the job, you were teaching students, and/or things that you
were teaching students, you were doing on the job. Are there more things that you’d like to tell us
about that consulting business?
Kuehn: Yeah, it was just a remarkable experience, a remarkable evolution. It wasn’t anything I had ever
thought about or intended or anticipated. All of a sudden, I began to do this thing. First of all, it was
just a sideline to make a couple of extra bucks. But also, out of a commitment to use my knowledge in a
way that would help people in the community. I saw that as an extension of my teaching., literally.
All of a sudden, it took over my life. I became just that much more effective as a teacher in a
much, much larger arena. Again, if I had intended this, if it had been an ambition, I’d probably feel
differently about it. It was a continual surprise to me. It just happened. As with many things in my life,
as I told you before, I’ve always been open to new opportunities. Some of them wouldn’t take me very
far, and in a couple of instances, they really changed my life.
I started this consulting stuff, and as I described to you in our last interview, calls would come
into the college and secretaries would transfer them to me. Somebody would ask me if I could do
something, and as I said at the time, unless it’s brain surgery, I’d say, “Yeah, I can do it. I can figure out
how to do it.”
Interestingly enough, there were things I did have to figure out how to do, and many of them
were rooted, surprisingly, in the Evergreen pedagogy—working groups, teamwork, collaboration, stuff
like that. I got good at that. I already had this background in evaluation research, which set me up to be
a good strategic planner.
Initially, I was just doing work in the local community—state agencies, and divisions of state
agencies, or small county/city entities, and a lot of work with boards and commissions because they
needed to do planning. On those boards and commissions were uniformly citizens who came from the


regular world. They went back to their offices, and pretty soon I was working with business and
foundations and all sorts of things.
There was an incredible amount of chance and luck in all of this, and I need to credit that, and
also talk about that a little bit. A good example is frequently, students would go back to their families
and their husbands or their parents and tell them about me, and I’d get a call to come down. In those
days, there was an entity called the Washington State Energy Office, which, after the great fuel
problems of the late 1970s, had gotten tons and tons of federal funding, and they were the
clearinghouse for that funding throughout the state. I don’t know who referred me, but they were one
of my first clients. I think it came from a guy who’d been in that career executive program.
I worked with the Washington State Energy Office and became friends with a lot of them. One
of the people I became friends was Dick Watson, who was the Director. This is an almost unbelievable
story. Dick Watson’s wife, Marilyn, who I had met a couple of times and who knew my work, was having
lunch with her best friend in Olympia. I had no idea who her best friend was or that they were even
having lunch.
Her best friend worked at the Washington State Association of Realtors, WAR. She was their
political affairs director and was telling Marilyn all the problems that were going on in her office—
conflict between people and poor leadership, etc. In a comment that I could have never known of or
predicted, Marilyn Watson said something that totally changed my life. She said to her friend, “You
should meet the guy who’s working with my husband,” and she gave her my name.
Zaragoza: Wow.
Kuehn: She went back to her office. I never added it up. Let’s just say hundreds of thousands of dollars
over the next 30 years. I ended working with WAR, working with them for several years, meeting lots of
people, making lots of contacts. Got involved in the commercial real estate industry. That was my
primary client for the rest of my life. I worked with commercial real estate firms all over North
America—Mexico, Canada, the US, all over—and developed an expertise.
I’m not going to go into the details of it, but there’s things about the commercial real estate
industry and the ownership and operation and management of them that’s kind of quirky and unique,
and I got very knowledgeable, and known for my knowledge about that.
I developed this expertise out of nothing, and if you’d told me when I was 25 years old or 30
years old, coming out of graduate school, “Oh, yeah, this is where your life is going to take you. You’re
going to sitting in a boardroom in Boston dealing with a bunch of angry owners,” I would have said,
“What? How’d that happen?” [laughing] But it happened, and it was fun.

There were a lot of other things I did. I tried to have a broad portfolio, and I always continued to
work at pro bono stuff or very low fee for non-profits, because that’s where it started.
That story about Marilyn Watson’s referral is just indicative of things that happened to me my
whole life. I did very little marketing. The only thing I did do is I started a newsletter that I’d send out.
That’s how I recovered my writing voice that Jack Mitchell had stolen from me as a freshman in college.
I’d go to conferences. I’d schmooze people at conferences. I can remember talking to a client
one time, a guy down in Mexico City, and he was one of the few Jews in Mexico. His family was very
prominent. When the president or whatever—prime minister—of Israel came to visit Mexico City, he
stayed with this guy’s family.
Zaragoza: Wow.
Kuehn: I’m talking to him in his office one day about how to market his services. I said, “I know it’s
tough for you, but sometimes you just have to say to your friends, ‘I’m not hustling you or anything
here, but I need you to know this is what I do and I’m available if you ever need my help.’” I said, “I
know how hard that is to do.”
He looked at me and he said, “Dooook, it’s not hard to do at all. You come right up to me at a
conference and say, ‘We need to be working together.’” [laughing] And that’s exactly what I’d do. I just
go up to people and say, “Hey, I’d like to work with you. I think we should be working together.” Sure
enough, more times than not I’d get the job.
I did more and more of this. As I said, my teaching became more and more built around all of
that. I’d come into class, and I’d say, “I want to talk to you today about how you would deal with this
issue of goal setting.” The students really liked the class—very practical, very useful—but I kept it tied
to good sociology and psychology, good social psychology. The next day I’d go off and do the thing.
Then I’d come back the next day in class and I’d go, “Here’s how it went.”
This is what I loved. Invariably, a student would raise his or her hand and they’d say, “Dr. Duke,
you said never to do that, and you just did it!” [laughter] Every mistake, every misstep I took, they’d
catch. But what was brilliant about it is that they were educating me. The students’ feedback really,
really, really upped my game. It caused me to think much more deeply about what I was doing, why I
was doing it, if it was working, why it was working.
I owe an incredible debt to students for extending my thoughts, pulling me further, and I have to
thank an Evergreen faculty member for that, a guy named Leo Daugherty, who I only taught one quarter
with down in Vancouver. He was kind of a mythical Evergreen faculty member. He was a big,
shambling, crazy kind of Lit professor. But he told me something. I’d only been at Evergreen a couple

years, and we were just talking about teaching, and he said, “Duke, here’s the secret. Teach what you’re
working on. Students love that. They love getting involved in the things you’re working on. They don’t
want to work with you, and they’re not going be able to analyze it or deal with it in an advanced form as
you can, but they can do part of it, and they can see how you do it.”
That’s exactly what I did. I followed Daugherty’s advice much earlier in my career, and as my
career ended in teaching, that’s exactly what I was doing. I was engaging them in exactly the same
process that I was engaged in. Their questions and their comments, and frequently, their criticism
pushed me to a much, much higher level of understanding of all of that, both as a teacher and as a
There’s one last story I need to tell you about all of that. If I give myself credit for anything,
Tony, it’s that I’ve always been open to new things and new ways of thinking. When I took a job at the
Policy Institute, I was way in over my head. I didn’t know how to manage anything like that. I certainly
didn’t understand the legislative process well enough.
I got to know a lot of people, and one of the persons I got to know briefly—not intimately at
all—a guy named Ed Seeberger. Ed was in charge of staff for the Washington State Senate, and a lot of
people in downtown Olympia were very, very helpful to me as I was trying to do the job of getting the
Institute off the ground.
I’ll never forget this. It’s like it happened 10 minutes ago. I’m sitting in Seeberger’s office in the
Senate, and he said something that changed my life. I understood organizations, certainly understood
them theoretically and practically pretty well by then. He waved his hand around, pointing to the
Legislature in the air. He said, “Duke, the thing you need to understand is it’s one, big decision-making
I’m sure I must have thought something along that line at some point in my life, but the direct
way that he put it in his position, I’d always thought about organizations as machines, so it’s not a fair
metaphor, but not a bad one, but I’d never thought about decision-making machines. What Seeberger
didn’t realize is that—it’s like that story the kid told me about learning about leadership on the ski trip—
he filled in a brick in the wall, and I realized all organizations are just decision-making machines. That’s
what they do.
Their mission may be to make cars or sell cars or educate students, but it’s all about literally
hundreds and thousands daily decisions—tiny, small ones—park here, park there—huge ones—spend
the money or not spend the money. But once I grasped the idea that all I was working with, whatever
the organization was—could be a regional ballet company, could be a huge international commercial

real estate firm, could be Golden Corral, the buffet restaurant people—was a decision-making machine,
and I needed to understand who made the decisions, how the decisions were made, and how the
decisions were implemented, because the implementation is as much a part of the decision as the actual
choice. That changed my life, and it changed my approach, both as a teacher and as a consultant in
terms of the subject matter I had at hand.
That was the stuff I wanted to share with you about the consulting. I guess there’s one other
part of it that’s kind of interesting, too. I began to take on a dual identity. Most of my faculty and
colleagues didn’t know I was consulting, and they weren’t very interested if I were. Many of them were
rather suspicious of it.
I remember Kathleen and I bought a new car. A bright red Mazda RX7. It was a hot car. I ran
into a faculty colleague in the parking lot, and I don’t know, I forget exactly what he or she said, but it
was something to the effect “Well, that’s why you do your consulting, so you can buy a fancy car like
this,” although that had nothing to do with it.
But most of my faculty colleagues didn’t know me as a consultant, or even if they did, they had
absolutely no idea what I was doing, or why I was doing it, except for a couple, Judy Bayard in particular.
She knew.
On the same hand, my clients didn’t know I was a college professor. In fact, if they had, it would
have probably counted against me, because they would have stereotyped me as an ivory tower, hippie
kind of guy. It would have come out eventually, but I developed a credibility that had nothing to do with
my academic credentials or background. That was kind of interesting.
I guess the last part of the identity thing is I never, ever once in my life perceived myself as a
salesperson. Just wasn’t me. But, as I told you the story about my client in Mexico City, I became a
good salesperson, mostly because I just interacted very naturally with people. I was helpful. Wanted to
be helpful. But I got to the point where I wasn’t afraid to ask the question: Are we going to do it or
aren’t we?
I got to the point even where I would turn down clients. I wouldn’t work with somebody where
it was just for show. If they weren’t actually going to do a plan and implement it, I wasn’t interested in
doing it, no matter what I was paid. I wanted results. I wanted outcomes.
That pretty much describes my consulting career. The only reason why I spent so much time on
it is, one, I would have never have probably begun it if I hadn’t been at Evergreen, certainly not to that
dimension. I never would have been as successful if it hadn’t been for the opportunities that Evergreen
gave for me to develop a whole bunch of skills and talents that I honestly didn’t even know I had.

Zaragoza: And you mentioned the role that the students played in giving you opportunity to think out
loud about some things and get feedback in what essentially amounted to in real time.
Kuehn: It was invaluable. I can’t imagine a better tutorial for doing that. Probably, after I started to
learn that I did that in other skills in my own regard, but I realized that the dialogue between teachers
and students—I knew this from the beginning and you do, too; it’s never been one-way street, but I
didn’t realize how important that reciprocation was.
Some students are pretty smart and sometimes they have a good way of seeing past the myths
and fantasies that we create in our own minds. I have to thank Daugherty because that concept of
seeing students as people who are working alongside you was a very important part of my teaching and
my life. I owe him.
Zaragoza: I can relate to that, Duke, no doubt. As I’ve come to know your consulting business, [it]
wasn’t the only thing that came out of your work at Evergreen. You also met your life partner. Do you
want to tell us that story, Duke?
Kuehn: [Laughing] In a very edited version, probably, yeah. I don’t think I ever violated any MeToo
rules, but there are some questionable behaviors in all this. I had married right out of college. A
wonderful woman I still regard very highly today. But the motivation for my marriage was largely
insecurity, I think. I was scared going off to graduate school and I was scared about being drafted and I
was scared about growing up, and my first wife was a great emotional support through the next few
years of my life.
The problem with that is that after a while, I wasn’t scared anymore. I was developing a kind of
competency and a kind of skill, and I felt confident about moving forward. Quite frankly, the two of us
just didn’t grow together. I was not the man she married. She was the woman I married, but I didn’t
need that anymore.
I went through a dark period in my life where there a lot of things happened. It became clear to
me that my marriage was not going to survive. We tried counseling and everything else, but she
couldn’t change to meet me, and I couldn’t go back to what I’d been. We had a son. He was now
almost 10 years old, and I didn’t want to break up a marriage to hurt him, but it just became unrealistic.
I didn’t want to live in a marriage that was loveless, not with my son. I didn’t want him to see that,
experience that.
I was teaching Management in the Public Interest, I think with Chuck Nisbet, and one of the first
day of classes—it must have been like an orientation to the program in the fall—all these students were


there. As I mentioned before, I taught at a time when a lot of women were returning to college, and
that was certainly the case with Kathleen. We’d both been married for a few years.
Zaragoza: Was this in the undergraduate program or when you were teaching in MPA?
Kuehn: In the undergraduate program. I can remember being down in the big lobby in the downstairs
corner of the Library Building, not far from the office I’d had when I was the head of that enrollment
thing. There were all these people there, and I saw this woman. It wasn’t love at first sight, but there
was just something in her that just captivated me the first moment I ever saw her. I can see that today.
She was in my class. She was a banker. She had two kids. She has a beautiful smile. It lights up
a room. But I could see a sadness in her eyes. Over the course of the quarter, we began to talk. As you
know, with adult students, you have very different kinds of conversations than with kids. The
conversations became more personal, more friendly, and I found myself falling in love with her.
Sometime, I guess in the winter quarter—the next quarter—I saw her and I expressed my
feelings, which I think were honestly more than a little surprising to her, but what wasn’t surprising was
that they were mutually felt. We fell in love, and over the next period of time, slowly left our marriages.
Nothing that I am proud of or will ever be proud of, but we had our reasons. To our credit, we made
sure that we would not marry and make the same mistake again. We’ve had our ups and downs—any
marriage would have that—but we’ve been together now for almost 40 years.
Zaragoza: Wow.
Kuehn: Blended a family, my 10-year old son, her five- and three-year-old daughters, who are all grown
up and successful. If you met our kids, you would think they were all our kids, not stepchildren. We
never used those terms. We both maintain very cordial, close relationships with our ex-spouses, so
there’s always been a strong family sense there. There was never a graduation or a ceremony that
everybody doesn’t show up. It’s united. I think they went on to better lives in their own regards, too.
It was an incredible experience. Building a family, that was the key thing. We loved each other
but we knew we had to serve these kids. Astoundingly, because of some other circumstances, we ended
up raising one of our granddaughters, who’s going to be 20 in November and is at college. She’s home
for the summer. Our granddaughter—who ended up, under rather difficult circumstances—coming to
live with us when she was five became the child we never were able to have ourselves.
Zaragoza: Oh, that’s beautiful, Duke. That’s really beautiful.
Kuehn: Yeah, she’s a remarkable thing in our lives. We’re both Catholics. We’re both very guilt ridden
about things, but I think, as a penance, we tried to make up for the errors in our first marriages. She is
an astounding person. She’s been in banking. She was in college, 18 years old, and screwed up in her

first semester and her father—they lived in San Francisco—who was a ship’s captain, tough guy—after
her first quarter or semester in college, he said, “Get up. We’re going downtown this morning.” He
drove her to downtown San Francisco to the financial district and he said, “I’m going to drop you off
here. I’m going to pick you up at 5:00. You’d better have a job by then.” [laughter]
Zaragoza: It’s like the story of the old-timers who would teach you how to swim by throwing you in the
Kuehn: That’s right. You’re either going to drown or you’re going to swim. She found a job at Security
Pacific Bank as the vault clerk. That was her very first job. Ended up as a fairly highly-placed executive
with KeyBank for a while, and went back to just branch banking, so she’s the branch manager of
Columbia Bank in the Stadium District. For the first time in her life, she’s really starting to think about
retirement. She’s gotten to that point.
Our life has been one series of successions after another as kids have gone and left the nest and
have come back, and then have brought grandkids back, and all sorts of things. It has been an
adventure. I made one mistake. [laughing] If I married my first wife because she was just so supportive
and I could never do anything wrong in her eyes, I said, I’m never going to do that again. I’m going to
marry somebody who’s got tough standards, and I did. I figured after a few years, Kathleen would kind
of ease up on that. Not a chance. [laughter] She chewed my ass out this morning about not squeezing
out the sponge. She has kept me humble and honest and we’re still deeply in love with each other.
That’s that story.
Zaragoza: Thank you for sharing that story with us, Duke. It’s really beautiful.
Kuehn: She went on to graduate from Evergreen, too. Once we got involved, I let her loose. Another
friend of mine, Greg Weeks, took her over. He knew what was going on between us and offered an
academic buffer of sorts. I never got to teach her again. But she went on to graduate from Evergreen.
My punchline to all this is I was her teacher for ten weeks, I was her student for the rest of my life.
Zaragoza: Sounds like you have several Evergreen alums in several different ways.
Kuehn: Yeah. One of my daughters graduated from Evergreen out of the Tacoma Program. There was
a lot I didn’t like about Evergreen. If I had to do it over again, I still would have preferred to go to Lewis
and Clark. [laughter] But if I had, I wouldn’t be talking about 90 percent of the things we’ve talked
about. I guarantee you that.
Zaragoza: Getting to know you this little bit, I have a feeling that that 90 percent would be pretty damn
interesting no matter where you ended up going; whether you stayed at Riverside or Lewis and Clark or


wherever, Duke, you’ve just got some magic to you that is able to make things happen. That’s clear to
me, and it’s been an honor to talk to you.
Kuehn: Oh, I forgot to tell you one last thing, one last evolution.
Zaragoza: Please do.
Kuehn: It’s November 2019, just before the pandemic starts. I think I’ve mentioned some of this
before. I never had an ambition like this, never had an interest in doing this at all. I’d been working on a
textbook, which I finally finished, about organizational change. But I’d never had an interest in writing a
novel. I literally woke up one morning in November and had an idea for a story. I sat down, and on an
iPad, wrote about four or five pages. About a month later, I had a mystery novel. [laughing]
Zaragoza: Wow!
Kuehn: I had to do a lot of editing after that, but I’ll tell you, I can’t take any credit for this. It came
literally out of my head, almost divinely inspired. I’d get up in the morning, Tony, and I’d say, okay, he’s
got to go talk to the sheriff’s office today. I’d sit and I’d write three or four or five pages and put it aside.
Next day, I’d get up and do the same thing, and all of a sudden, I had 250 pages. It just wrote itself. I’d
lie in bed at night, and I’d think, what’s he going to do next? Oh, yeah, I think he’d better talk to this
guy, or he’d better go over and do this thing.
I love mysteries. It was a genre that I understood pretty well anyhow, so I understood I had to
introduce twists and surprises. I’d go and in and tinker around a bit. What can happen here? Oh, yeah,
I can do this.
I wrote the first one, and I made a conscious decision—because I’d been around this stuff, and
I’d been criticized so many times about my writing—I wasn’t going to publish it through a publisher, and
I wasn’t going to have an editor edit it. I had one of my former students do the proofreading of it, but
when I found out I could do it through Amazon—they have great free software, and you can do
Publisher and make your own covers—and I published it. [laughing]
Zaragoza: Wow.
Kuehn: Then I wrote a second one, and a third one, and a fourth one and a fifth one. Self-published all
of them. The sixth one is ready to publish and the seventh one is in process. All in a series about a
college professor who’s retiring, a guy named Doug Wilson. Doug starts investigating the murder of one
of his students and he gets involved with—Oh! Oh! There’s one other thing I’ve got to tell you about. I
can’t forget to do this.
Zaragoza: Please do. You said that those books were available on Amazon then?


Kuehn: Yeah, just go to Amazon Kindle. Write in “Duke Kuehn.” There they are. Ebooks and
paperbound. People like them. A lot of friends have read them. I don’t sell very many of them. I don’t
promote them in any way. I don’t care to. I never wrote them to make money or to do art.
Here’s the thing. I forget, I was reading this about some famous popular author, and she said
[that] all she hopes is that her books entertain people. I was writing the first one and I was pretty much
through the first draft of it. I shared it with a couple of very close friends. Ex-clients. I’ve got a lot of exclients all over the nation who are good friends still.
One I sent it to is a woman who works for the National Association of Realtors in Chicago, Jan
Hope —great, great lady, good friend. I sent it to her because I knew she’d enjoy it. Turns out she
started reading it at the same time she was diagnosed with breast cancer and was undergoing
chemotherapy. She lived a little bit outside of Chicago, so she’d have to take the train into town to go to
her chemotherapy, so she would read my book coming and going. If that’s the only damn reason I
wrote the book, that’s enough.
Zaragoza: That’s a very good reason.
Kuehn: I can’t describe the feeling [I have]. I send these things out, and people read them, and I know
they’re entertained. I’m lying in bed at night and I know somebody’s reading my book right now and
they’re entertained. I’ve entertained somebody.
I used to say I had a double life because of the college professor and consultant. I now say I was
a college professor, consultant, and a novelist. [laughter]
Zaragoza: I’ve read the first chapter of The Sportswriter and look forward to seeing where this goes.
Kuehn: You’ll be getting some more, I promise you. You’re on my list for sure now. But I really
appreciate what you said because it’s for me a very high compliment. I never wanted to be
The only thing you haven’t asked me, you haven’t asked me about my nickname.
Zaragoza: Yeah, I think that’s a wonderful place to end. Tell us about your nickname, Duke.
Kuehn: I was born a month premature. Both my mother and I were in a very, very critical condition at
that time in the hospital. My father took it upon himself to name me, and he decided, without
consulting my mother, to name me after his twin brother and himself. They were born in 1920 in
agricultural Iowa and their mother thought it would be neat to give them the alliterative names of Lyle
and Lowell. I was named, my mother found out as she came out of her coma, Lowell, after my uncle,
Lyle, after my father.


My mother didn’t like either of those names. She, in fact, hated them. Neither were saints’
names so I couldn’t be baptized that, so I had a baptismal name of Paul, so my name was Lowell Lyle
Paul Kuehn, and nobody could pronounce Kuehn.
My name was problematic all my life. I really didn’t like it. The first day of school, invariably the
teacher couldn’t pronounce my last name. They’d get to Diane Kaufman and finish with Dee Dee and go
Low-e-e-ell [garbled last name] and I’d have to correct the teacher from kindergarten on. Hated it. It
didn’t bother other people, apparently, because I was popular growing up, but I never got a nickname
growing up.
I’m headed off to college to the University of Redlands. It’s August 1963. I get a letter from the
Dean of Men. “Dear Lowell,” and then there were a series of questions so they could match you up with
a roommate. Did you smoke? Blah blah blah blah blah. It said “Name,” and then a blank space that said
“Nickname.” Tony, at just short of the age of 18, I said to myself, there’s no fucking way I’m going to
college with this name. [laughter]
I spent a couple of days thinking about what my nickname would be. I’m not quite sure how I
hit on Duke. I certainly didn’t know it was John Wayne’s nickname. I probably vaguely knew about Duke
Ellington, but being a big baseball fan, I did know Duke Snider from the Brooklyn and Los Angeles
I tried it out. Duke. Duke Kuehn. Duke Kuehn. Nice. Can’t get too confused about that. Didn’t
tell anybody except the Dean of Men. I put it down on that piece of paper and sent it back to him. A
week later, I get back a letter that says, “Dear Duke.” [laughing]
Zaragoza: It was official.
Kuehn: “Your roommate is Paul Berger of Lakewood, California.” I showed this to my parents, who
were more than puzzled by the reference to Duke. I think my father, for the rest of his life, was highly
offended. He never called me Duke but everybody else did.
I go off to the first day of college. My parents drive me out to Redlands early in the morning. I
get to my dorm early. Move into the room first so I get the best bed. A few hours later, they leave, and
I’m there all by myself on my own. First time in my life. There’s a knock on the door. It opens up. It’s
Paul Berger, and he says, “You must be Duke.” And I became Duke from that point on.
Zaragoza: Wonderful. I love that.
Kuehn: Later on, after I got my PhD, I thought, that sounds kind of weird, so I started to change back to
Lowell, but nobody would do it. They thought I was Duke. [laughing]


Zaragoza: Just too late. It done stuck. I’d love to see the list of the different possibilities that you had
way back when.
Kuehn: I think Buck was one of them. [laughing] I’m glad I didn’t choose that. Probably fits me more
Zaragoza: Well, it’s never too late. It could be you’re coming out as Buck today, Buck.
Kuehn: Yeah, I don’t think so. I’m stuck as Duke now. But I made sure when my son was born, he was
named Matthew. [laughing]
Zaragoza: Yes, I’m sure that was easier.
Kuehn: I think you’ve got all the stories out of me that I’ve got.
Zaragoza: I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the many and wonderful stories that you shared,
especially the last few. They seem very important to you as a human being, and it would have been a
tragedy not to have those stories. Thank you, Duke Kuehn, for sharing them with us. I really do
appreciate the stories and knowledge and wisdom that you’ve shared, and the history of the role that
you played at Evergreen, which is pretty large, and I don’t think a lot of people know just how large.
Kuehn: No, and there were times when I’d get grumpy about that, but then I realized I never did any of
this for my own glory. I did it for my amusement, frequently, or for money or whatever, but the idea
of—when I was working for Evans, part of the experience of that was not long after Watergate. I’d
always wondered about Watergate, the degree to which Nixon’s aides had abused their powers, as
we’ve seen in the Trump administration. I wondered, if I were ever thrust into that kind of power,
would I do that?
To my credit, I didn’t. I was very humble about my power. I feel good about that. I’m glad I can
look back and I don’t have things that I’m ashamed of. I’m not happy about having gotten divorced and
having an affair that led to a marriage. I tried to make the best of that, but I was an honest person.
Certainly, honest in my dealings with colleagues and students and clients. Yeah, it would be nice if
somebody said, “Gawd, Evergreen wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t turned enrollment around,” but
nobody’s going to. Now, it doesn’t make any difference anyhow.
I never felt, at least amongst the founding faculty and the cohorts that they had hired before
me, accepted or particularly liked. Some, but not many. I never felt at home. Later on, with some
colleagues, particularly in Tacoma, I found that. It is a bit of history now, and even if somebody wrote
an official history and left it out, I wouldn’t be surprised or particularly hurt. I did what I set out to do.
Ultimately, I guess, the evaluation of that is in the results that occurred. People have jobs. Students
learned. The institution, with a very distinctive mission, was able to survive for a while. As with any

organization, survival is always at risk. There have to be other people that come along and do the kind
of stuff that I did.
Zaragoza: I think the important thing is that the stories are in the Archive, and that’s really important.
At least for my sake, Duke, I do want to thank you for the very, very crucial work that you did, not only
early on in the marketing campaign, and crunching the numbers, and getting folks to realize what
needed to be done, but also the many programs, the campuses that you worked at, and the ways in
which you treated students and helped folks grow. I thank you for your service, Duke, and I thank you
for helping to make Evergreen what it is today.
Kuehn: I do appreciate that. I have to tell you, at one time, I went online at Evergreen, and I think I was
looking for whether there was an oral history archive or something like that. At that time, I hadn’t seen
one, but deep down inside, I yearned for these interviews.
You know me. I’m like you. I’m a storyteller. I had all these stories that I’d never been able to
share, or even have a context to share. I told Kathleen the other day you’re very good at doing this, and
you’re very good at getting me to see some things a little clearer than I’d seen them in the past. At my
age—I’ll be 76 next month—I’m okay with kind of bringing some accounts to rest. Okay, this is what I
did, and I’m proud of some of it. Some, I’m not that proud of, but there are a couple of things I did that I
don’t think I wasted my time here.
In raising our kids, the only Christian principle—outside of the most obvious ones that we
passed on to them—was the Parable of the Talents. God gives you talents and you have a responsibility
to use them for the good of others. I truly, truly, truly believe that. It doesn’t mean I haven’t advanced
my own ambitions or my own checkbook, but always built on a principle of you’re here to serve others.
I think my kids reflect that. My son is an attorney in the Attorney General’s office who handles
Medicare fraud cases. One daughter is a legislative aide—staffer, policy analyst. My other daughter
went through some tough times in her life, but she’s got herself on her feet and is a hard worker. Works
for Xfinity.
I think our kids—and our grandkids, for sure, certainly our eldest—reflect that same
commitment that you’re here to serve others. It doesn’t mean you don’t have your own interests and
ambitions and needs but use your talents. I guess that’s my motto for life.
Zaragoza: I think that’s a fantastic note to end on. Just one final coincidence between us, Duke. I’m
currently re-reading the Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler, not exactly what you were talking
about, but in some ways, it is.
Kuehn: That’s fascinating. Oh, I’ll have to look that up.

Zaragoza: She starts with the Parable of the Sower—it’s the first in the series—and Parable of the
Talents is the second. Hold on because it’s some pretty deep stuff, but I think they’re two of the most
important books we could be reading right now.
Kuehn: Really? What’s her name again?
Zaragoza: Octavia Butler. Parable of the Sower. Parable of the Talents. There’s also a podcast that
they go through chapter by chapter discussing it, and I’ve been following it since the beginning. Toshi
Reagon and adrienne maree brown do Octavia’s Parables. Really beautiful stuff, Duke. I give that gift to
you as a kind of giveback Tacoma-style.
Kuehn: That’s great. Super! She’s a science fiction writer.
Zaragoza: Yes.
Kuehn: Interesting. I’ll go look it up. Again, thank you for doing this. Thank you for letting me leave a
little bit of a legacy. I can’t imagine what anybody will think of all this stuff, but you’ve done a great job
of pulling everything out of me that I wanted to talk about.
Zaragoza: Excellent, Duke. Thank you again. I really appreciate being able to talk with you.
Kuehn: It’s been great fun. And I’ve made a new friend. Thank you.


Duke Kuehn
Interviewed by Anthony Zaragoza
The Evergreen State College oral history project
July 28, 2021
Zaragoza: Good morning. It’s July 28, 2021. We are with Duke Kuehn. Duke, it is good to talk with you
again. Welcome back.
Kuehn: Thank you, Anthony. I’m happy to be back. I think you’re supposed to read me my Miranda
rights, aren’t you? [laughter]
Zaragoza: Habeas corpus and all of that.
Kuehn: Anything I can say can and will be used against me. I got to thinking the other day about a
couple of things in regard to my experience at Evergreen that were probably relevant and fit into the
earlier sessions.
I am the perfect undergraduate student. I loved being an undergraduate at a liberal arts college.
Quite frankly, much of the appeal of Evergreen for me was the opportunity to intensively spend a
quarter or two focusing on a single subject and learning a whole lot about it.
Zaragoza: I hear that.
Kuehn: I was not a good scholar because I didn’t like the intensity of scholarship. I didn’t want to spend
my whole life learning about these things, but I did want to learn about them enough so that I felt I had
some grasp or sense of. In fact, I used to talk to that to my students. I’d say, “I want you to get a sense
of what this is all about.” Enough so that one of them ultimately knitted me, I don’t know what you
would call it—placemat, doily, something like that—that said, “Thank for the sense of.” I really
appreciated that. That’s what I tried to do, and that’s pretty much how I’ve led my life.
Evergreen offered me the opportunity to follow up on these intense curiosities I would have in a
number of ways that had a very profound impact on my life. One of them I thought about the other day
is—I don’t know this for a fact, you can find out—I’m pretty sure an early faculty member told me that
Evergreen, in its planning stages, had really anticipated having a marine studies program that would
include an option for learning to handle sailboats, not just little day sailboats but pretty good-sized
sailboats. I think the college actually bought three or four or five Cal 20s or Cal 25s, something like that.
Eventually, the idea was abandoned, but they had hired some of their initial faculty partly based
upon their maritime skills. I had the good fortune of spending a few days sailing from here to


Vancouver, B.C. with two of them, Pete Sinclair and Bob Sluss. Bob sadly passed away a few years ago.
Sinclair might still be alive.
My buddy, Les Eldridge, and I discovered early on that we were both interested in maritime
history. I had been before I came to Evergreen. We began to share interests, and Les was very
interested in naval history during the Civil War and I was interested in naval history during the Second
World War.
We matched up our interests and we ended up [teaching] an evening/parttime studies course a
couple of times called Nelson to Nimitz. That pretty much encompassed it. Les got a chance to talk
about Lord Nelson and I got a chance to talk about Admiral Nimitz, and we had a really, really good time
doing it. One of the highlights of it was—this was from Dan Evans, who was our employer and our boss,
was President—we got Evans to come and talk about his time serving on destroyers during the Korean
War. Really fun stuff.
Les really got into it enough that he wrote a couple of novels about a character serving in the
Union Navy during the Civil War. Just another part of our deep and enduring friendship. I’m really glad
because Les died last year. I don’t think you ever probably had a chance to meet him or interview him.
It’s sad I’m sure he’s pretty much lost to everybody’s memory, but he was critical.
Zaragoza: I didn’t know him, and I want to offer my condolences in the loss.
Kuehn: After our first interview, when I had a chance to talk about how Les and I worked with Evans, I
wrote his widow, Mary, who had been a staff member at Evergreen, and told her how happy I was to be
able to get into the record what he had done, not all of it, obviously, but some of the very important
work that he did. Somebody may stumble across that someday.
Sluss and Sinclair invited Les and I to come on this voyage to Vancouver. The occasion was very
important to me. It was the 200th Anniversary of Captain Cook’s voyages to the Northwest. I was a big
Captain Cook fan. Read all his journals. Learned a lot about him. Fascinating person. They were having
this 200th Anniversary conference in Vancouver and we were going to sail up to attend it. We did, and it
was great, and I have wonderful memories of it.
But the highlight of the trip was that we were sailing in Charlie McCann’s boat. Charlie was, at
that time, the President of Evergreen. Charlie had given us the boat to sail, so Pete, Sluss, Les and I took
off one evening and spent a day and a half or two sailing up to Vancouver and pulled in late morning to
the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, where we were going to tie up. That sounds kind of posh, and it really
was the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club. I distinguished myself, and in some ways hallmarked my sailing


career, by falling into the waters of the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club and having to be rescued.
Sinclair was docking the boat alongside and I was up in the bow ready to jump off and tie up the
bow. We were coming alongside a boat that would be moored behind us, a fairly large cabin cruiser. As
we came in, Sinclair had kind of misjudged. We got pretty close to the cabin cruiser. It looked like we
were going to scrape it, so I leaned out to push us off away from the cabin cruiser. A fairly easy thing to
do on a sailboat, even one as large as McCann’s.
But I made a fundamental mistake—something I’ve done many times in my life—when I pushed
off on the other boat, I waited a little bit too long, and all of a sudden, as McCann’s boat is beginning to
slip away under my feet, and my hands are still on the hull of the cabin cruiser, my center of gravity
shifts from my knees to my chest, and it’s pretty clear there’s no way I can stay on the boat. As we push
away, and my fingers leave the side of the cabin cruiser, I have no choice but to fall into the water.
Kind of a dumb thing to do because Pete could have brought the boat back in and crushed me
against the hull of the cabin cruiser, but he was smart enough not to do that. On top of it, everybody
within 500 yards began to scream, “Man overboard! Man overboard!” This was much to my
humiliation and embarrassment. The dockmaster was right there, too. They had to throw me out a life
ring, and they pulled me drenched out of the waters of the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club.
But I did feel it was kind of a baptism of sorts, and it was a memory that I cherish to this day. I’m
sure they still haven’t forgotten the lubber from Olympia who fell into their waters.
Zaragoza: How many martinis in were you at that point?
Kuehn: No, it was morning. I was stone sober. Just dumb. The other thing I wanted to share with you
is that I don’t think anybody probably even knows about this. Fairly early on, I taught a course at McNeil
Island, which at that time was a state penitentiary. I taught a group contract in the form of four
individual contracts with inmates. They must have contacted the Admissions Office and the Admissions
Office must have passed it on to me. You know me. “That sounds like an interesting thing to do.”
I had a background. I hardly ever talk about this, but one of my subspecialties in graduate
school was sociology of law. I knew a lot about corrections theoretically. What was appealing was I
knew McNeil Island ferry well. To this day, the state operates this nice boat that runs back and forth
between McNeil. In those days, it carried staff and visitors.
Zaragoza: In fact, I know one of the workers on that boat that works there today.


Kuehn: Oh, then you’re really going to enjoy this story. So I thought, that would be fun to take a boat
triponce a week for a quarter to go back and forth from Steilacoom to McNeil, and I did.
The four guys were great. I’m sad that I lost touch with them. I don’t know how it all turned
out. All of them were getting close to release. All of them were getting close to graduation, so I don’t
know how it all went, but I did these individual contracts with them and some work with them.
I came to hate it, not because of them. I came to hate going to McNeil. If you’ve ever talked to
anybody who’s had any experience around prisoners, they will tell you that everybody there is confined,
whether you’re an inmate or a staff member. I just absolutely hated the sense of confinement.
One day, I was standing in the dock at Steilacoom, and I don’t know what happened, but I didn’t
get on or didn’t get off. Whatever it was, I didn’t follow protocol. From the small bridge above me, the
skipper yelled down at me, “Get on board the boat!” Anthony, I just don’t take orders very well.
Zaragoza: I hear that.
Kuehn: I climb back on the boat. Geez, I’m just another inmate here. It was a good experience, though.
It was a service I’m glad I achieved. I regret that I lost track of those people. I hope they all went on to
have successful, law-abiding, happy lives and careers after that.
The other thing I wanted to share with you was—and I just can’t imagine I didn’t mention this to
you the other day—I ended up spending relatively recently—in the last 15 years or so—an enormous
amount of time out in Micronesia. Most people don’t know Micronesia. They know Polynesia, but
Micronesia is essentially a span of island nations west of Hawaii, all the way to the south of Japan.
This is one of those crazy stories I have where the contact and the friendship of a client turned
into a major life-changing event. When I first came to Evergreen, a terrific guy, a public policy analyst
named Ron Perry—may he rest in peace—somehow or another got ahold of me at Evergreen. He
worked for an entity downtown called the Legislative Budget Committee, the LBC, which now today
goes by the name of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee, JLARC.
It was innovation that came out of the progressive movement that meant that there should be a
bipartisan committee that should look at public policy issues, not unlike the work the Institute did, but
they also were frequently giving me assignments by the Legislature to do evaluations and assessments
to determine whether or not programs were successful or not.
Ron called me in because he wanted to some assistance to do some survey research. Thus
began a lifelong relationship with JLARC to do some work with them. Right up to a year or so ago. Forty
years, a client. Amazing.


I loved it. It was fascinating. It was just the kind of work that—after my internship with Evans
on the enrollment problems at Evergreen—was just the kind of thing that I got fascinated in. I got
involved in all sorts of studies. I got involved with all sorts of efforts to help evaluate programs.
A couple of years into that, the Director of the LBC retired, and they hired—this is kind of
revolutionary—a woman. I don’t even know where she came from. Her name was Cheryle Broom. Like
all these other events in my life, it was life changing. Cheryle became a great client and an even better
Cheryle came in and she decided immediately that she wanted to change the operating culture
of the LBC. She’s probably responsible for getting it renamed to JLARC. In those days, it was a kind of, I
don’t want to say dumping ground, but kind of a place where legislators who had relatives who couldn’t
get work with staff or with committees.. They were all good people, but they weren’t very hardworking
or very focused, except for Ron. Cheryle went through the process of rebuilding JLARC into something
quite powerful today. Very, very rigorous, good, solid research to help the Legislature work through all
sorts of policy issues.
Ron introduced me, and Cheryle got to know me, and she liked my style and my approach, and I
basically became her assistant in reorganizing the LBC. We stayed friends and I got involved in various
projects. Cheryle, wherever she went after that, called me up and brought me in.
She went back to work at the Public Auditor’s Office of the MTA in New York City and that was a
hell of an experience going back to New York, working in New York City. When you’re a consultant, I
guess it’s kind of like being a movie actor and saying, “You’ve got to get to Hollywood. You’ve got to get
to Broadway.” Making a buck in New York City is an affirmation of sorts.
I worked with Cheryle there, and then Cheryle came back and became the Public Auditor for
King County and brought me in for all sorts of projects there. Cheryle was very active in ASPA, the
American Society for Public Administrators, the national association, enough so that she became the
national President one year.
When we worked together, we had this great friendship, this great client relationship. Cheryle is
part Pacific Islander. One day she called me and said, “I’ve been invited to come out to Guam and help
them work on their public auditor’s office, but I don’t know how to do the stuff you do. Would you
come team up with me and go?” I said, “Sure.”
Cheryle and I fly out to Guam. Again, this is totally unexpected. This was never predicted in my
life plan. I’m going to fly 6,000-7,000 miles out to Guam and help the public auditor’s office in Guam get
its act together. But anyhow, here we are.

After we finished that, Cheryle went off to do some other projects, but I got known, and I got
invited to go to a number of nation states out there, including the Northern Mariana Islands, the
Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, the Marshall Islands. All over Micronesia, literally.
It was an extraordinary experience. I was able to have a very powerful impact on governmental
operations in these nations. They have very thin and not particularly well-educated workforce to staff
state and national offices. I got drawn into all sorts of things and can truly say I was able to have a real
impact at very high levels in terms of how these nations operated their programs, evaluated their
programs, revised their programs in what is absolute tropical beauty.
Micronesia has never been promoted as a tourist site because the United States government did
not want that. They have never been independent nations. They’ve always been somebody’s colony,
and obviously, all of them were occupied by Japan during the Second World War. When the war ended,
the United Nations granted them trust status, and they were our trust territories for the next 20 or so
Today Guam is still like Puerto Rico. I don’t know officially what it’s called, but it’s like Puerto
Rico. It has that status. The others became independent nations. In fact, I was amused to watch the
parade of Olympians the other day and to see the Marshall Island and FSM march in.
I spent a ton of time out there. Kathleen had the opportunity to come many times. We saw
extraordinary things and met extraordinary people. It never became a significant part of my teaching
curriculum, but it certainly was related to what I was teaching and was related to my experiences at
Evergreen. It was just unreal, and, of course, all the adventures to go along with it—snorkeling in these
deserted bays and untouched regions. Just one of the best experiences.
The Micronesians have a ritual. If you come in to do work with them—this goes back to my
days—I’m not sure if I mentioned this, but I’d gotten a job offer from the University of Hawaii, not the
main campus in Oahu in Honolulu, but a new subsidiary campus they were opening on the Big Island in
The occasion of my visit prompted three or four huge parties, because in those days, particularly
out in Hawaii, it was isolated enough that the Big Island, Hilo, was even more isolated, so these people
out in the middle of the Pacific in those days wouldn’t get any live TV at all. The arrival of an outsider
from the mainland is an occasion for a party. “Seen any movies?” [laughing] “Been to a ballgame?”
Anyhow, I was used to that. Micronesians are very welcoming to begin with, but they’re
particularly welcoming when somebody’s coming from the outside. When you’re finished, you cannot


leave Micronesia without them giving you gifts. You have to get gifts. Over the years, they gave me
wonderful things—models of Micronesian sailing canoes, and tapestries, all sorts of stuff.
My favorite story is I was working in the Marshall Islands with the staff of the public auditor’s
office in the Marshalls. About six or seven staff. It started before we get [there] and then after we get
[there]. I was in Majuro, the capital of the Marshalls, and on Sunday, I went to Mass at the local
cathedral. It was in June. It was a wonderful experience. It was graduation for whatever the local
Catholic high school was. They had all the graduates there and they were dressed in leis and a variety of
costumes. Very serious and exciting time.
I was struck by the fact that the young men graduates wore—the best way I can describe it, it
was like one of those Western ties that just has two strings and a big, round thing in the center. You
know what I mean?
Zaragoza: I think they’re called bolo ties, right?
Kuehn: Yeah. I’d never seen one of those made out of a traditional string of woven grasses, I guess,
that you see all over Micronesia. Then a big conch shell that represented the holder.
On Monday, I came into work at the office, and I mentioned to people that I had been at the
ceremony and how moving and touching it was. Because you know, as a teacher, you never go to a
ceremony like that, even if it’s a strange institution, and are not moved by commencement.
One of the women raised her hand and she said, “My son was in that group.” “Oh, gee, that’s
wonderful. Those bolo ties were really cool.” She said, “Oh, yeah.” Two days later, I’m wrapping up.
We’re all done at the end of the day. It’s been an exciting day. The power had gone out all over the
island. We finished up our session working outside in a barbecue. We pulled in grills from their homes,
all over the island and we had a big outdoor barbecue at the end of our planning session.
There came time when I knew they were going to give me some gifts. I got my usual coasters.
I’m using one right now, a conch shell coaster. The lady whose son had graduated said, “I want to give
you this,” and she handed me a box. I opened it and it was one of the bolo ties. I said, “Oh, that’s
wonderful. It’s beautiful.” She said, “My son wanted you to have that.”
Zaragoza: Aw-w-w.
Kuehn: “This is your son’s tie?” She said, “Yes. He knew how much you liked them, and he wanted you
to have that.” That’s Micronesia. That story tells you everything about Micronesia.
I had some incredible experiences out there. Still have many friends. As with many of my
consulting jobs, I kind of worked myself out of business. The funny thing is, when I was a kid growing up


in southern California, I used to fantasize about going to the South Seas. Here I am. I’m actually doing
I actually got to Polynesia, too. I had a client in American Samoa. Beautiful spot. Wonderful
place. I did some work in Samoa, too, so it just opened a world that I never imagined. It opened a world
that I was, because of the Tacoma Program in many ways, all of a sudden prepared for. I think I made a
real difference there.
I have one last story that I’ve got to share with you because it’s kind of silly.
Zaragoza: Please do, Duke, and I really appreciate these stories. It helps round out your experience at
Evergreen and all the doors that got opened up through your various work.
Kuehn: Oh, yeah. As I think I mentioned in an earlier interview, had I followed a very conventional
academic path, most of this stuff never would have happened. Maybe it would have. Who knows
where life will take you? But Evergreen’s openness to new ways of thinking, its very lax administrative
structure, which allowed you to get away with a lot of stuff, permitted me to go through these doors, to
try these things out.
I can surely say that while—you’ll probably find this a bizarre thing—if you see my obituary,
imagining that I even had enough acclaim to get one of more than an inch, I’m sure it would mention
that I was a college professor and had been all my life. But my life has been so much more than that.
I’ve been presented with such phenomenal opportunities to learn things and meet people and go places
I never would have seen. It never would have happened.
Among those interests, somewhere or another—I still don’t know what prompted this—
somewhere in the mid-1970s, I think when I was still at Riverside, there was a period of time when there
were a number of rather significant defections of Russian artists to the West. A number of them were
dancers. I think Rudolph Nureyev may be the most significant of all of them, but there were many
I can’t remember their name—Nova or something like that—husband and wife classical ballet
dancers broke away and came to the United States. As part of their welcome, I guess, they made a tour
around the United States, dancing. My then-wife and I went into Los Angeles and saw this concert, this
I’d never had any interest in classical ballet at all. I’d been kind of interested in dance. I’ve had
all my life—this is not anything people usually talk about very much—a curious interest in the Broadway
musical theater, and I followed it as a kid. Just an odd set of circumstances. I think I’d mentioned that


I’d written about the influence of lyrics in my writing. I knew a lot about dance, but classical ballet was
never anything I’d been interested in at all. At all.
I watched this husband and wife go through this tremendous dual performance and I was really
quite struck by it—by the athleticism, by the art, by the whole thing. Anyhow, I got interested in
classical ballet. Before I came to Evergreen, I began to read everything I could about it and see
everything I could. This was before the days of VCRs and stuff like that even, so it was a bit of a trek to
see some of this stuff. But at the end, I learned about it. I wanted to become knowledgeable about it.
Very curious, so I continued.
When we moved to the Northwest, I can remember getting season tickets to the Pacific
Northwest Ballet, which in those days was a very new company. For years and years and years and
years, I went to PNW performances.
In those days, there was a company based in the Chicago area called the Joffrey Ballet. The
Joffrey had an international reputation, largely because it integrated a repertoire that went much
broader than classical. It brought in modern ballet, but in classical terms, so it was interesting in that
Every year, the Joffrey would make a tour to the West. It would go to Seattle, Portland, San
Francisco, Los Angeles. That was a significant part of their season. One year we got tickets to go see the
Joffrey dance in Seattle. What I’m going to tell you in a second sounds kind of unbelievable, but
everything I tell you is absolutely true here.
We went to see the Joffrey on a Saturday matinee. My marriage was in real trouble—really
falling apart by then—and I was just all over the place and not, well loosely, connected to anything. I
watched the ballet and enjoyed it. It was good. The last performance of the afternoon was a thing
called, I think, “The Wedding Bouquet” or “The Wedding.”
I’m watching this ballet that’s depicting a wedding with all the drama and circumstances around
it, and a woman comes onstage, and I am absolutely electrified. I can’t take my eyes off this dancer. I
am just locked into her. I can honestly say, before or since, I’ve never had a moment like this in my life.
I love women, and I hope I do so in a respectful manner.
I’ve seen a lot of women and I’ve looked at a lot of women and appreciated a lot of women.
Something about this woman absolutely blew me away. I looked up her name in the program. I was
just astonished. I could not get the image of her out of my mind. I had to meet this woman.
I went back to Olympia. Went into work Monday, and my secretary, Eileen—this was when I
was working for Evans—who was about 15 years older than me and very aunt-like to me. She loved me

and helped me in many, many ways. I was very open with her about things in my marriage, things in my
life, and I told her what had happened. I said, “The Joffrey left Seattle last night for Portland and they’re
going to have three or four performances down there. I’d love to go down there and see her. I’d love to
go down and meet her.” Eileen said, “You should.” I said, “Oh, I couldn’t do that. I wouldn’t even know
how to do that. Even if I contacted her, it would sound like some weird pervert, stalking her.” She said,
“I’ll call her for you.” “You would?” “Sure. I’ll explain who you are and see if I can’t set up a dinner
after the performance.”
This is unbelievable, right?
Zaragoza: I’m sure it gets even more unbelievable.
Kuehn: I go back to my office and Eileen comes in a couple hours later and she says, “I set up a dinner
date with you for Jan Hanniford.” I said, “What?” “Yeah, I talked to her. I explained you weren’t some
sort of weird guy, that you’re really interested in ballet, and you enjoyed her performance and wanted
to meet her. You’re going to go to”—I guess it was that evening’s performance. “Better get going.”
Zaragoza: Wow.
Kuehn: I hop in the car and drive on down to Portland. Eileen had gotten me a ticket. I go into the
Portland theater and here’s Jan Hanniford. She comes out and she dances and she’s doing stuff. I’ve
never even been backstage in a high performance, much less anything like this. At intermission, I ask an
usher, “How do I get backstage after the performance?” He showed me there was a little door off the
side of the stage and to just go through there.
I got back to my seat, and my seat was on the orchestra level, but it was kind of in the middle,
and I explained to the people sitting around me, “I’m sorry. When the performance ends, I need to get
up and exit right away. I’ve got to get backstage to meet one of the dancers.” That was pretty
impressive to all of them. “Oh, yeah, sure.” [laughing]
I sit through this thing, and I am again captivated by her. I can’t believe this. It is an
experience—I was trying to think about it when I knew I was going to share it with you—in which my
love of the art and my love of beauty and my love of aesthetics and her sensuality all merged into one.
It was unreal. Un-fucking-real.
The last act or performance came on. Curtain comes down. Before I can rise for the people to
take their bows, I say, “Excuse me.” And I scoot out of the aisleway, run down the aisle, and go to this
door. Now I had absolutely no idea what lies beyond this door. My ignorance about theater and
theaters physically is profound. I fully expect to be met by an armed guard.


I open the door and I am literally right next to the stage. [laughing] I walk upstairs, stand at the
side of the stage, and the dancers are taking their bows. They are covered with sweat. They are young,
all of them in their late twenties or younger. The applause stops. The curtain comes down, and the
start to file off the stage.
I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to do and what I’m going to say. I see Jan coming off
the stage. She doesn’t appear to be looking for me or anybody else for that matter. She’s just a dancer
who’s finished her night and is coming off the stage. They’re tired. As she approaches, I step forward
and say, “Ms. Hanniford, I’m Duke Kuehn. I’m seeing you after the performance tonight.” She smiled.
“Oh, yes! Sure.” She leads me back alongside the stage, down some stairs. Points to a waiting area and
says, “I’ll be out in a few minutes.”
To this day, this is not a very good story that I’m telling because I can’t find the words to
adequately describe what I felt. It was all very much like a dream. I went and stood in this waiting area,
and there were a couple of other people who were waiting for relatives or whatever. There wasn’t
anybody else who was a sort of Stagedoor Johnny like me. I waited for a few minutes, and sure enough,
out this door, here comes Jan Hanniford dressed in regular clothes. Very friendly, very effusive. Shook
hands. “Can I take you to get a bite to eat?” I knew Portland fairly well, so I knew there were several
places nearby for late night dining. She said, “Sure.”
We got in my car. I had a little Fiat 850 convertible sportscar, a little, teeny, tiny baby blue car.
We got in that, and we drove a few blocks to a restaurant. It’s now probably 11:30. We go in, and we
sit down, and we have a wonderful conversation. I was just full of questions about ballet, about her life,
about her career, about the Joffrey Ballet Company. She very patiently and engagingly answered all
those questions.
It was fascinating because she was about the age and very like one of my students. On the
other hand, she had had a life unlike anybody I’d ever met. She had been to Moscow, she’d been
around the world, she had danced on the world’s greatest stages, she knew some of the greatest ballet
dancers in the world, yet she’d never been to a high school prom. I’m sure she’d never been to a high
school football game.
She has this very, very strange, almost foreign life. As we talked, many of her questions directed
back to me were as curious about what a normal life was as my questions were to her about this
extraordinary life that she lived. We became friends on the spot.
We finished dinner. It was getting late. She had to perform again tomorrow, so I drove her back
to her hotel. We’re sitting there and we’re talking. Part of me felt the desire to lean over and kiss her.

Part of me could not. I don’t know how to describe this, Anthony. She was like a goddess to me. I
couldn’t violate the purity of her goddess-ness. She literally was of some category of human I’ve never
known before or since.
We’re sitting there wrapping up and I thanked her profusely for spending the time with me. She
said, “What are you doing tomorrow night?” “I don’t know.” “Would you like to come to the
performance?” “Of course.” She said, “I’ll leave a ticket for you.” Those words, “I’ll leave a ticket for
you,” much like Dan Evans’s words when he put his arms around me, “He speaks with my voice until I
tell him to shut up,” represent a moment that is almost incomprehensible to me. If I had dreamed
about the highest compliment that I could be paid in the world, to have a classical ballet dancer say to
me, “I’m going to hold a ticket for you” was just unbelievable.
I got out of the car, and I walked her to the door, and we shook hands. I went and got a hotel
room. Stayed overnight. I hung around and did work all the rest of the next day. Waited with great
anticipation. That evening, I went back to the theater. Went to the box office to will call. I asked if
there was a ticket waiting for me, and there was. I went in and sat down, and this time when I sat down,
it was different than the performance the night before because I was sitting in the seat that Jan
Hanniford had gotten for me.
I watched the performance with awe. This time at the end of the performance, hey, no big deal.
I just got up and walked down to get on the stage. She came off. I waited for her, and we had another
lovely dinner. Took her back to the hotel, and the next day, she left for San Francisco.
I never saw her again. We corresponded for a while. She went on to dance with a dance
company in The Netherlands for a bit. Then I lost track of her. I got married. Somewhere I’ve got some
letters tucked away from her. I looked her up on the Internet the other day. She’s apparently a
choreographer or a dance instructor now in Florida.
It was a moment in my life that was precious. I’m glad there was never anything physical about
it. It kind of reinforced to me the degree to which my regard for her and her regard for me were on a
totally different plane altogether.
That’s the story, buddy. [laughing]
Zaragoza: One thing I hear in that story, Duke, is essentially, you wrestling with awe. We use that word
“awe” and “awesome” quite a bit, but the word itself gets diluted in what I hear you talking about is the
real meaning of awe.
Kuehn: Yes. It was, I can’t say religious, it was transcendent. Obviously, I’m building all this stuff into it.
I’m sure she didn’t feel anything of that sort at all, but I was with somebody who was so different from

me in so many ways, and who represented an art form, really, that was so—I couldn’t do a waltz step
much less a classical ballet move. It was so far beyond my comprehension. Yeah, it was “awe-some.”
I’m pleased that I had the inner balance, I guess, sense of mind to be able to speak with her intelligently
and in ways that I think she found interesting and entertaining. But it was just, in the best sense of the
word, alien and fulfilling. I was doing something with someone—
You know what part of it was? This is immodest. It reinforced what my concept of learning, my
sense about things, meant. I did not want to become an expert in classical ballet. I did not want to
become a ballet critic. I wanted to enjoy it and appreciate it, and to have a sense of it, to have an
understanding of it. That’s what Jan Hanniford gave me. She gave me a sense of what it meant to be a
ballet dancer, to do the things that she did. I didn’t come away from the feeling expert. I did come
away feeling knowledgeable. More knowledgeable. More sensitive to what that was all about, what it
really meant.
I can remember asking her, probably the second night, “When you’re dancing, what are you
thinking about? Are you thinking about what your character is doing? Are you thinking about the next
step you have to take?” She shook her head at both of them. “I’m not thinking about anything, I’m just
doing it.” [laughing] As a longtime sports fan, I think that probably if I talked to some of my favorite
athletes, they would tell me the same thing. Much of what they do, they do almost by intuition and by
I was a fairly good tennis player when I was a young man. I knew a guy who was a very good
tennis player who played semipro. We were talking about playing tennis one day and he revealed to me
something that I still have a hard time understanding. When he was playing tennis, he saw something
very different than I did. When I was playing tennis, I was concentrating on the ball, and if I could, the
position of my opponent. He said, “When I play tennis, it’s as though I’m sitting 20 feet behind me and
20 feet up. I can see the whole court. I can see the whole thing unfolding.”
I couldn’t figure out how he could do that, much less how he could hit the ball with any
authority. I think my experiences with Jan Hanniford were somewhat the same. She was extraordinarily
generous to do that for me. It gave me an intimate knowledge of the art. It made me appreciate it all
that much more, even today. [laughing]
Zaragoza: We go through this life learning, and we take advantage of the learning moments we get, and
we give.
Kuehn: I have told people for several years—and I hope this is true—my hope is as I take the very last
breath of my life that I’m still sentient enough to say, “Oh, this is what it’s like.”

Zaragoza: Duke, I want to thank you again for sharing your stories with us, and I look forward to sharing
more stories with you in the coming days and weeks and years.
Kuehn: I hope so, too. It’s a wonderful service that you’re doing, and you’re very good at it. I admire
your patience.