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KSU faculty members follow after fathers

By The Mercury

Father really does know best — especially when it comes to the workplace. That’s according to three Kansas State University faculty and staff members who are following in their fathers’ footsteps by working for the university, too.

They say their dads are more than a parent — they’re also a mentor, role model, colleague and friend.

Justin Kastner, associate professor of food safety and security, loves that he sometimes gets to work with his dad, Curtis Kastner, director of the university’s Food Science Institute.

The younger Kastner, who earned a bachelor’s from K-State in 1998 and joined the faculty in 2003, said his dad was a big influence on his career choice.

“Dad has always said the best job is being a professor. He’s had opportunities to do many other things, but he’s always been so invested in K-State and the community,” said Justin Kastner.

Even though the Kastners are in different departments, their similar fields mean they attend many of the same meetings and often travel to conferences together. That’s when it’s common to hear Curtis Kastner being called Big K, and Justin Kastner going by Little K.

“It’s an honor to work with him. I’ve learned so much from him, especially about interacting with others,” Justin Kastner said.

His dad has always given him plenty of good advice, but Justin Kastner said there is one thing that has always stuck with him. It was when he was a boy and playing baseball.

“Dad told me, ‘Don’t let others dictate how fast you warm up,’” Justin Kastner said. “What he was telling me was don’t let others dictate your pace of life — what you’re supposed to do or not to do. It’s been a pearl of wisdom that I’ve really held on to, particularly when it comes to life. The expectations and demands on all of us are enormous. There are loads of distractions, too. While we all bear responsibility for responding to demands, sometimes we need to simply say, “You are welcome, but just not right now.”

Laura Kanost, assistant professor of Spanish, says her dad’s experiences on the K-State faculty made her comfortable with seeking a job with the university. Her dad is Michael Kanost, university distinguished professor of biochemistry and outgoing head of the department of biochemistry.

Kanost says her dad has been a great resource in getting her own career off the ground.

“My dad is an important professional mentor for me because he has a lot of experience working in academia,” she said. “I remember when I was considering graduate school and it seemed very overwhelming to me. My dad told me that a Ph.D. is just as accessible as any other degree — you just have to keep working away at it, little by little, and each step will fall into place.”

It’s understandable why John Grice, who just earned his bachelor’s in political science from K-State, almost didn’t attend the university. Both of his parents work for K-State.

“It was more of being a teenager striving to burst out of the nest and fly far, far away than it was a logical decision,” he said. “However, once I took a very close look, I fell in love with K-State. Now I have been given the opportunity to work here. It’s something I dreamed of doing.”

Grice is the son of Ronnie Grice, assistant vice president for public safety and director of the university police department, and Cheryl Grice, manager of employment services with the university’s Division of Human Resources. He’s just started his new job as development program coordinator in the annual giving and student programs department at the Kansas State University Foundation.

“In less than obvious ways, my dad — sometimes I just call him Chief — has shown me a love for K-State that I hope to exemplify,” John Grice said. “I see him serving with a passion that makes K-State a very attractive community to continue engaging beyond my time here as a student.”

John Grice also admires his dad’s personality.

“People seem to always enjoy his presence. If I end up with nothing else in life, I hope to have a treasure chest of supportive, faithful friends as he does here in Manhattan and at K-State,” he said.

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