Kenneth Brooks, '79, sets record for consecutive years of giving to CLA
Born and raised on a cattle ranch outside of Killen, Alabama, Kenneth Brooks grew up hauling hay, bush hogging, working cattle, and loving the challenge and exploration of knowledge. In 1979, he graduated from Auburn University with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. Shortly after graduation, he began donating to the Department of Philosophy and hasn’t stopped. He has made an annual donation every year for the past thirty-six years, which earns him the record of longest consecutive years of donating to the College of Liberal Arts.
“I would have never imagined I could hold any record at Auburn!” Brooks said. “For the richness Auburn added to my life I could never repay the debt.”
Brooks currently resides in the Muscle Shoals area with his wife, Toni Mahatha, whom he met in first grade and married after graduating from Auburn.
Learn more about this philosophy-loving alumnus in our interview, below.
Would you tell us a little bit more about your background?
Sure, our farm has been in the Brooks family since before the Civil War. I am the eldest of four sons, and attended Brooks High School in Killen, which was named after my grandfather who donated the property for the school.
How did you decide to attend Auburn?
I considered three universities before choosing Auburn. I had received a commission to attend the U.S. Naval Academy, but a military career just did not feel right to me at the time. I visited both the Tuscaloosa and Auburn campuses, but Auburn seemed to me to be a more serious place for me to pursue my education.
How did you decide on your major(s)?
I was a true child of the 60s trying desperately to find my path in life both spiritually and vocationally. I took an ethics course taught by Dr. Robert Andelson and it influenced my decision to become a philosophy major. He told us that he was not there to babysit us. He said that if we were not able to complete the course work, he would pursue us “inexorably,” and if we did not know the meaning of that word, we had no business being at Auburn University. I didn’t know the meaning of the word, but I went straight to a dictionary. I loved the challenge and the exploration of knowledge.
What was your Auburn experience like as a student?
I had been president of my senior class in a small rural high school, but it was a major shock to my system to go into a large university setting. I knew no one at Auburn; some of my freshman classes were three times the size of my senior class. Auburn was my first experience living out on my own. I was over five hours from home. I had no car until midway through my sophomore year. Fortunately, I ended up with a great roommate who was majoring in Electrical Engineering and that led me to making friends with several up-and-coming engineers.
What was your career path after graduation?
A friend introduced me to a position at the local mental health center working as a job counselor for developmentally delayed adults. I returned to school at the University of North Alabama and obtained a Master Degree in Guidance and Counseling. Then I was hired at the Northwest Alabama Council of Local Governments. Becoming Director of the Governmental Services department, I went on to have a thirty three-year career at NACOLG.
How did your education and experiences at Auburn prepare you for success?
My experience at Auburn proved invaluable in my career. Having engineering friends at Auburn gave me insight into how they approached problems, and my skills as a writer and critical thinker helped me work with the mayors and chairpersons of communities to address their economic and community needs during my career.
What do you like to do in your free time?
My wife and I have done extensive travel in all fifty states and much of Canada. Since retirement, we have been enjoying international travel. Recent trips include the Netherlands and Greece. We have also been to Iceland, New Zealand, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, France, and Italy. I also love playing music, and along with my wife and two friends have formed a band called the Blue Navigators. We perform an eclectic collection of songs that probably would be described as American roots music. For fun, I like to attend group fitness classes at the gym, walk our two dogs (a Great Pyrenees/Golden Retriever and a totally in charge Dachshund) and hang out in our adopted hometown, the City of Sheffield with its exciting revitalized downtown.