Humans of UD: Dr. Kevin Kambo

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Some may have noticed the sudden appearance of a new philosophy professor, Dr. Kevin Kambo, on campus in August. The Cor Chronicle has set out to unveil the man shrouded in mystery.  

Kambo grew up in Kenya, a little outside of Nairobi, on a farm with chickens, about a dozen cows and eight German Shepherd guard dogs. 

He, along with his three brothers, was encouraged to study abroad. While his brothers chose the UK, Kambo chose the US, getting his undergraduate degree in Chemistry at Stanford in 2008 and then his doctorate in Philosophy at The Catholic University of America in 2018. 

Kambo is the only of his three brothers to not return home to Kenya, all of whom he calls “way more intelligent, perhaps, or more practical,” than him. Two of his brothers are in finance, but he rather ominously would not reveal the occupation of the third. 

The mystery mounts when one considers his transition from the study of chemistry to philosophy. Kambo explained it saying, “I just followed the traditional Socratic path that one can find in the ‘Phaedo’: you begin with a study of the natural world and find that it is incredibly dissatisfying and boring.” From there, one turns to the study of man and the logos, and “hey, presto, you get into philosophy,” said Kambo. 

If it is not obvious already, Kambo is a Platonist, who professes that “Plato is a lifestyle.” 

Kambo stated that he continually “fell into” philosophy, and he didn’t really have a four-year plan. He urged students, “don’t use me as a model.” 

He recalled a time in high school when his English teacher told him that he should study English at university. Kambo almost laughed in his face in response; his plan was to be a physician.

Now, Kambo says that if he were to teach any other discipline, other than philosophy, it would probably be English. He once taught a course at another college entitled, “Philosophy and Tragic Literatures.” 

Next semester Kambo will be teaching Philosophy of Being for the first time, a course about which he has had the most apprehension. “This is the one that’s going to require some kind of incantation or magic tricks to get people involved,” he said. 

Kambo said the ideal Special Topic course for him would be a “historical seminar-style sprint through Platonism.” An “ideal” course however must be qualified by the caveat that Kambo would “need to have the ideal student” and “would need to be in [his] ideal form.” 

When asked about his hobbies, Kambo firstly said, “Drinking with Drs. Heyne and Berry … I recommend it to anyone, as long as they are of age.” Other hobbies include reading P.G. Wodehouse and detective fiction. Kambo has found that he likes “watching intelligence in action,” which is something you can find in Plato as well. 

If you, like I, were unfamiliar with P.G. Wodehouse, here are Kambo’s recommendations: “Leave It to Psmith” — yes, with a silent ‘p’ at the beginning — and the “Jeeves and Wooster Stories.” He compared P.G. Wodehouse’s books to the TV show “House,” but if you “imagine it was a comedy and House is actually likable.” 

Though Kambo detests traveling, he likes being in different places and having an excuse to indulge in another hobby of his, sending postcards to his friends. Driving in Texas is also not Kambo’s cup of tea. He described it as “incredibly aggressive, ugly, concrete-like.” 

Also, it’s tea, not coffee for Kambo. When asked about his preference, he emphatically stated, “I don’t do drugs.” 

Kambo enjoys writing in his spare time. One of the projects he is hoping to finish relatively soon is “a critique of Discourse 5: the heart of St. John Henry Cardinal Newman’s idea of a university.” In the Discourse, one of the points Newman relates is that liberal education should not aim at educating the heart, but the intellect.

This was something Kambo could not let stand, “as a Platonist,” and needed to write about in order to “purge [his] soul.” 

Another project, involving a group of mainly professors, Kambo calls a much healthier pursuit. The group is setting out to write a collection of essays addressing the question “what are we actually aiming to do in liberal education?”

Each chapter will attempt to “articulate what it means to educate a particular different activity of the soul,” i.e., memory, eros, intellection, comic sensibility, perception, hands (craftsmanship), etc. 

One of Kambo’s main motivations in helping put this project together is the dissatisfying and “strange” answers you get when you ask people about the aims of liberal education. 

“I’ve always been dissatisfied with this response of ‘oh, it’s just good for its own sake.’ That doesn’t actually explain its relationship to the human good. Why should I as a human being care about it?…plenty of things are good for their own sake,” he said. 

For those who do not know, Kambo lives with history professor and University of Dallas alumnus, Dr. Jon Paul Heyne. They first lived together when Kambo was looking for a place to stay during his “nomadic and solitary existence” as a graduate student, he said. 

Tensions seem to be mounting between the roommates. “He’s such a serious academic. Makes me feel bad about myself and inadequate, and as if I don’t love the grind enough,” Kambo explained. “He’s always studying, learning his Arabic, or going to campus to do late-night research … it’s just the worst.” 

Despite any troubles at home, Kambo is doing his best to be a welcoming figure on campus. “I am trying to be as inclusive and pastoral as possible as a professor, so I take all Romers into the bosom of my heart … even, what are they called? Nomers?” he said. 

However, he does have something to say regarding the prevalence of student smoking on campus. “I’m not against smoking, but I hate a certain kind of Catholic intellectual aesthetic of like, bourbon, bowties,” he said, “there’s a kind of falseness to the thing.”

“Coming here, I was just like, you have all these people trying to look like mid-century French existentialists,” said Kambo. 

As a new professor, Kambo has also been learning to respect the “spirit of the place” at UD. He is grateful to some senior faculty members for directing him in this. He recalled some professors telling him that he must get jailed during Charity Week even though some may say it is optional; it is, in fact, not. 

He enjoys “that the faculty and the students seem to have a nice and friendly relationship on the whole” and has also appreciated how inter-disciplinary his conversations can be here, on account of the Core. 

He has noticed that UD students like to have fun and there is “an attempt to marry seriousness and playfulness, and it doesn’t mean that every attempt is successful, but that there is a devotion to the attempt is something I very much respect,” he stated. 

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