‘Ken of all trades' chaplain at Catawba College

‘Ken of all trades' chaplain at Catawba College



The Rev. Ken Clapp has overseen $17 million in construction and renovaton projects at Catawba College. Salisbury (N.C.) Post photo
The moniker "Jack of all trades" needs to be changed, according to a Catawba College trustee.

"'Ken of all trades' is much more appropriate at Catawba," he says, referring to the Rev. Ken Clapp, the campus chaplain who also runs Buildings and Grounds at the UCC-related North Carolina college.

Clapp has overseen $17 million in construction and renovation projects in the past seven years, even though he has no formal training in the construction disciplines, like architecture or engineering.

So how does a clergyman end up in charge of Buildings and Grounds? It probably started when he was executive director of Blowing Rock Assembly Grounds, a UCC conference center in the mountains of North Carolina. He oversaw a number of building projects at that site.

He also loves the details that are a part of construction and maintenance. "So much of what I do doesn't produce concrete results," he says. "There are those students who tell you how much your comments have meant to them, but a large part of what I do bears no immediate evidence of change. I plant seeds, and it takes time for them to grow."

A building project, however, is concrete, especially when he actually does some of the work himself. "That's rewarding," he says. "All of us have a need for that physical outlet as well as the mental and spiritual."

One of his goals is to help architects and contractors see how particular projects fit into the total campus plan.

For example, he makes sure the materials used in construction are maintenance friendly. Another is to keep a vigilant eye on the cost of projects.

While he has overseen a raft of building projects, he says the most satisfying of all has been the development of a plan for the regular maintenance program of the college. Calling it a work in progress, he notes that the plan is currently being converted to a computer program that will generate the daily work orders for projects like cleaning gutters and oiling motors on equipment.

Clapp figures he spends about 25 hours a week on the various building and renovation projects. He spends another 30 in counseling or matters related to the chaplaincy.

Then, of course, there are teaching and other administrative duties. It's not uncommon for him to put in 90-hour work weeks.

How long will he be able to keep up that pace?

"The bottom line," says Clapp, is how long can I juggle all of this without taking a toll on what I consider to be my first and most important job here, which is addressing the spiritual needs of the students and being available to counsel and work with them."

He wrestles with that dilemma every day. "I just pray that I will be able to recognize when the toll becomes too great," he says.

Juanita Bouser is chief communications officer at Catawba College.

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