“Back at Unity, professors exposed us to every different train of thought, really challenging us to think through different topics and be inclusive.”
As the commander of the U.S. Navy’s Expeditionary Strike Group 2, Roy Kitchener, ‘84, is no stranger to the act of active listening. With 13 ships, 11 subordinate commanders, and 12,000 Sailors and Marines under his guidance, the ability to truly hear someone is a skill he values every day.
It’s also a skill that is becoming harder and harder to come by in this world, according to Kitchener. He sees much of the divide between the world’s people, many of whom actively label themselves as liberal or conservative, as a refusal to really listen to opposing ideas. To him it seems that people nowadays are more “caught up in the minutiae” of issues that should really be approached from the concept of the larger picture.
But without his time at Unity, he could have been one and the same.
“Back at Unity, professors exposed us to every different train of thought, really challenging us to think through different topics and be inclusive,” Kitchener explained. “I really enjoyed that about Unity. You’ve got to have that. I’ve run into it in a couple of other places, but never quite like it was there.”
“Unity taught me to be open minded. Find your passion. And don’t be afraid — just jump after it and see where you end up.”
For Kitchener, joining the Navy was one of those “just jump after it” experiences. Inspired by a calm, thoughtful group of veterans who attended Unity College alongside him, Kitchener applied for and got selected to enter the Navy. While he initially planned to serve for only four or so years and then move on to something else, life had other plans for him.
“It’s funny how that turns out. Here I am, 32 years later,” Kitchener said. “I command ships, travel the world, and it all started back at Unity. The fundamentals I learned there, basic leadership stuff — I just kind of built on it. It made me a good listener. Sometimes we don’t do that enough. Some people just like to transmit and I’m a receiver. I listen before I react.”
Kitchener also believes that his science-based education gave him a unique perspective on problem solving, and the opportunities he had through Unity to intern for a full semester at the Washington Institute, and independently form a course schedule for his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, really kept him well-rounded and on par with any other school in the country.
“When I lived on 16th street in DC for my internship, there were people from every school — Yale, Harvard, Princeton. I learned then it’s not necessarily the school you go to but what you pull into it as an individual,” he said. “Unity offered me just as good a quality education as anywhere else in the country. When I realized that I thought it was very profound.”
Kitchener credits “a lot of who I am today” to Professor Emeritus David Purdy, who passed in late November 2012. A memory that still stands out from his time at Unity was an assignment Purdy gave on “a critique of a critique of Karl Marx.”
“It was a really thoughtful, difficult thing to do. He was always having us do stuff like that,” Kitchener said.
As a Unity College graduate, Kitchener’s association with the school follows him wherever he goes. He said he’s known people who went to read up about the college simply because they saw it next to his name.
“The word’s out there. Whenever I go somewhere people ask about it,” he said. “You’ve just got to have the passion for stuff in life, and Unity set me up right. I’m proud to have gone there.”