Mr. Ken Does Math

Update: Mr. Ken was featured as "Person of the Week" by WLOS


United Way Staff Blog About Mr. Ken


One of the greatest things about working for and with United Way is the amazing individuals you meet along the way. As we’ve said before, United Way is first and foremost a people-powered organization. The drive, passion, perseverance and dedication to creating real change in our communities finds its initial source in individual people. It’s really quite amazing when you stop and think about it.


Having said that, every once in while we get the opportunity to come into contact with truly exceptional folks. We would like to share the story of one such individual; his name is Ken.


Kenneth Ames Maultsby has seen and done quite a bit. In fact, at the age of 90, you could say Ken has accumulated a lifetime’s worth of experience. Throughout his life, Ken has worn many hats: student, engineer, soldier, husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, business owner, and now, volunteer.


Ken volunteers at the Erwin Middle School Homework Diner. You’ll find him there every Monday night tutoring students in math — and the students know because Ken wears a sign around his neck that reads: Mr. Ken Does Math.


Being an engineer by trade, it makes sense that Ken would choose math as his central subject to tutor students in. Ken entered school to become a civil engineer in 1943 and later worked in his chosen field before eventually starting his own company, Ames Associates General Contractors, in 1963. Ken estimates that he and his company have helped to build hundreds of buildings in the Asheville area over a 30 year span.


June 12, 1949 is pretty special according to Ken — it’s the date that he both graduated from college and married his long-time girlfriend. And no, it didn’t take Ken 6 years to graduate — he spent two of those ensuing years serving as an Electronics Technician in the United States Navy during World War II. Ken entered the Navy in 1944 and while serving in the Pacific, was witness to one of the many Atomic Bombs detonated at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands.


Ken speaks strongly of his religion being a guiding force in his life. Prior to tutoring at Erwin Middle School, he spent 10 years tutoring children through his local church and found the experience very rewarding, especially when he would happen to run into one of them later in life. For Ken, it’s all about choices. Chess happens to be his favorite mental exercise and Ken makes parallels between the choices you make in the game and the choices you make in life. He can often be heard encouraging students to make the right choices in life.


Ken has been tutoring students at Erwin Middle School since the inception of the Middle School Success initiative. He says he saw an ad in the newspaper and that it spurred him to come and meet Linnea Burgevin, Erwin’s Middle School Resource Coordinator. Ken says that his approach to tutoring students in math is “old school” and finds learning about the new methods of teaching math mentally stimulating. As a matter of fact, He spends his evenings online learning these new methods so that he can be better prepared to help Erwin students.


During his time as a tutor at Erwin, Ken has made a profound impact on the students he helps. One in particular, 7th grader Tamika, says Ken has helped her to get better organized and adopt new and more productive study habits. She says that it’s helped her to get her homework in on time and led her to better grades. In addition, Tamika likes hearing about Ken’s past; the places he’s been and the things he’s seen.


The word spry is often used to describe how active an older adult is. Ken puts this description to shame. “There’s nothing in my handbook that says retire,” he explained. In addition to tutoring once a week, Ken goes to the gym three times a week, because as he sees it, “exercising the mind and the body helps me sleep at night.” So how does a man of 90 accomplish so much? Ken sums up his basic philosophy on life this way: “The physical world, the mental world and the spiritual world — all of these things need to be in balance. I believe in the basic Christian value of giving someone a hand.”


Ken is a shining example of what it means to Live United. The fact that this man is 90 — soon to be 91 — and still gives back in such a selfless manner is an incredible lesson on what life is really all about. Thank you, Mr. Maultsby for showing us that the formula for leading a successful, happy and rich life can be found in service. You are a true inspiration.