Brother Kenneth Cardwell, FSC, Integral Program, Residence Hall Director

Brother Kenneth has taught the sharp minds of integral program students, ridden in a cattle drive, and stared down the muzzle of a gun — all in the interest of education and service.

Brother Kenneth CardwellThe school bell rings, calling students and faculty to breakfast. For Brother Kenneth Cardwell, it’s the start of another idyllic day in the high desert, where he’s serving a four-year stint as professor and dean at Deep Springs College on the northern edge of Death Valley National Park. One rarely finds isolation like this – with the closest town 26 miles away.

It’s a far cry from Brother Kenneth’s last desert assignment from 1999 to 2002 at Bethlehem University, a sister school to Saint Mary’s College. Brother Kenneth and a second Saint Mary’s professor – Brother Myron Collins – were teaching at the Christian Brothers’-run school during the Second Intifada of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Things got serious in March 2002, when Israeli soldiers stormed the campus looking for Palestinian snipers. Afterward, Brother Kenneth told the San Francisco Chronicle that “when they found no snipers, they (the IDF soldiers) pointed their guns at us. They almost shot us.”

When the siege ended, Brother Kenneth returned to Saint Mary’s College to teach in the Integral Program and to direct the Collegiate Seminar Program. But in 2010, the desert sang her siren song once again. This time it was Deep Springs College, a 100-year-old experimental school now run by David Neidorf, a former colleague at Saint Mary’s. “I like the project,” he says, “which is to take very bright young people who are committed to a life of service and give them responsibility for the academic life and daily working of the community.”

The students attend college tuition-free and work on the adjacent cattle ranch and alfalfa farm. When Brother Kenneth isn’t teaching or handling administrative duties, he occasionally helps with the chores. He has even ridden in a cattle drive. “Pushing cattle,” he says, “is easier than herding cats.”