Section: archive

On the Record: Tim Shutt

By Sarah Lehr

Your grandfather went to Kenyon. Did he tell you stories?

Actually, I didn’t see him much, so no he did not. But my father told me stories. This is not very edifying, but he told me stories about the winter and spring weekend parties which were legendary back when Kenyon was a small, rural, mostly Episcopal school of only men. He regretted, in a way, not going to Kenyon himself. [He] went to Denison [University], if you could imagine such a fact. He would have loved to play football at Kenyon.

During your time at Kenyon, what changes have been most striking?

The continuities strike me more than the changes: the commitment to teaching, the spirit of the place, especially on the part of the students whom I dearly love. One change that I welcome is, on the faculty side, it’s become more pleasant and civil over the past few years. Part of it was when Robert Oden became president [in 1995] he let it be known that he was just not going to tolerate rudeness on principle. Believe it or not, the ideological wars are less toxic than they once were.

What’s the most challenging part of your work at Kenyon?

This is sad to say, but the biggest challenge to me here is that, while the students are a delight, I find it difficult to deal with my colleagues. This is at least as much my fault as anyone else’s. I spend lots of time with students and as little as possible in public faculty settings.

You’ve served as an announcer at Kenyon swim meets for a number of years. Could you describe your connection to the sport?

I was a swimmer myself, starting in third or fourth grade. In [graduate] school, I was the distance coach for the University of Virginia. I am a second-generation swimmer. My mother was at least as good as I am. I’ve been involved with the sport for 55 years, which is more than half the time it’s really been a sport. Kenyon swimming was good even in my time, when I considered coming here.

In your opinion, what are a few of the most memorable Kenyon swimming moments?

Strangely enough, the most memorable of all happened last year. Ian Stewart-Bates [’13], anchoring a Kenyon relay in the national finals, outsplit everybody else by more than a second in a 40-odd-second event. I have seen one swim that good in my life, and it won an Olympic gold medal. Celia Oberholzer’s [’15] backstroke last year was astonishing. Before that, the best, which sent chills, was Pedro Monteiro’s [’98] 200-meter butterfly [in 1995], which set a record that lasted for almost 20 years.

You direct the Integrated Program in Humane Studies (IPHS) How confident are you about the future of the program?

Confident. From time to time, some species go through genetic bottlenecks and get very small. Supposedly there were once about six breeding cheetahs in the world and then they recovered. I think we’ve been through our bottleneck and I think we’re going to do fine.

Do you think the College offers sufficient support for IPHS?

Yes, I do. It would be more difficult to say that about always, but now, yes. Now there’s more sympathy and support, to some degree, because of different leadership.

You’re known around campus for the ghost stories you tell at “Haunted Kenyon” tours. How did this originate?

It was the idea of one of my former students, who worked in the Alumni Office. They were looking for an event on the first evening of alumni week to encourage people to leave the cocktail party at the president’s house.

How long have you been telling these stories?

Too long. I’m frankly tired of them, but people like them. It rather mystifies me why people like them as much as they seem to.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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