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50 Years Behind the Camera at Graduation

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Arka Tech newspaper staff under the direction of Gerald Edgar, who taught journalism and oversaw the news bureau at Arkansas Tech from 1957-86. Kiehl admits he didn’t do as well in school that first year as he would have liked, but he came back to Tech after a year off. As has been the case for more than a few young men, his academic progress during his second try at college was bolstered by the influence of a good woman. He met and fell in love with a student named Vicky Hatfield shortly after returning to Tech. Generations of Arkansas Tech students know her as Vicky Kiehl. She went on to join the music faculty at Tech in 1967. Vicky retired in December 2013 as the longest-serving music faculty member in the history of the institution. It was shortly after the Kiehls were married in 1964 that his tradition of photographing each graduate from Arkansas Tech began. “I’d been making a few pictures at graduation for individuals who wanted me to make a picture of them, and I thought that if I could make a few of them, I could make all of them,” said Kiehl. “That was a bigger challenge than I thought. Graduation was in the football stadium then, which presented challenges of its own. I came up with a system where I had three different cameras, two of which were borrowed. It ended up being a supplemental income, which we needed at the time. We’ve been doing it ever since and we’ve worked up a pretty good system, certainly with Vicky’s help.” The only commencement ceremony that Kiehl has not photographed since 1964 was his own. He earned a bachelor’s degree in design from Arkansas Tech in 1968. A friend from Little Rock filled in taking the photos so Kiehl and his fellow members of the Class of 1968 could have access to a picture from their graduation day. Kiehl went on to a long career as an engineer, but he always maintained his hobby as a photographer. Revenue from selling the commencement photos helped finance his desire to have the latest and greatest photography equipment as new technologies were developed. After more than a half-century as a member of the Tech family, Kiehl is proud of what his alma mater has become. “When Mr. Edgar first asked me if I would like to come to Tech, I said sure, where is it?” said Kiehl. “I’ve been fascinated to watch the growth and changes. I’m very proud when we have visitors come into town to show it off and talk it up even though I don’t have any official capacity. Tech is a real asset to our community. It’s as pretty a campus as you will find in our state.” Photographed: William and Vicky Kiehl following a December 2013 commencement ceremony at Tucker Coliseum.]]>