Cornell giants still loom for Kingston

Tom Kingston ’66 arrived at Cornell in 1962 with a passion for language and literature. But his decision to come to the Hilltop was based on simple economics. He applied to three colleges. But “only Cornell made the kind of investment in a poor dairy farmer’s son that made my matriculation possible,” he said.

The relationship has proven to be richly rewarding—and enduring—for Kingston, his alma mater, and scores of students he has nurtured in his own academic career.

Tom KingstonTom Kingston '66

Learning at Cornell was “undeniably and indelibly transforming,” said Kingston, now Dr. Kingston, superintendent of Chelsea Public Schools, a small but hard-pressed urban district in Massachusetts once among the poorest performing school systems in the state. But the district has benefitted of late from all that Kingston learned from what he calls “the professorial Cornell giants of my life.”

Winifred Van Etten, Elizabeth Isaacs, Bill Heywood, Robert Triplett, Fran Pray, and others honed his skills of written communication, oral persuasion, and insight into the human soul, all of which he relies upon daily in his work in Chelsea.

Kingston has used these skills throughout his career. Fresh from Cornell, Kingston worked for a time as a high school English teacher. He went on to become a professor at Boston University and a senior executive at the National Endowment for the Humanities. He later earned a master of arts in teaching degree from Yale, and a Ph.D. from Northwestern University.

At each step, Kingston’s Cornell English degree has proven invaluable.

“As various subsequent jobs unfolded, my Cornell training in literature, my evolution as a prose writer, and my empathy for the acmes and nadirs of human experience gleaned from literature granted me administrative skills that have proved useful,” he said.

Kingston’s other skills allow him to communicate with audiences in a different way. He’s the organist and choirmaster for the Church of our Saviour in Arlington, Mass.

And Kingston and wife Sue Leigh Kingston ’67 maintain close relationships with Hilltop friends, and repay their debt of gratitude to Cornell as donors and frequent visitors.

“The emotional and social elastic continually snaps us back to Mount Vernon,” Kingston said.