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Second in a series on the 2019 Junior Achievement of Eastern Iowa Hall of Fame winners.

CEDAR FALLS — Humbled.

That’s the best description for Dr. James R. Kenyon’s reaction to the news that he has been selected for Junior Achievement’s 2019 Cedar Valley Business Hall of Fame. The retired veterinarian was named a laureate in recognition of his leadership, vision and innovation, as well as achieving a high level of success both personally and professionally.

“The more I have learned about the JA program, the more impressed I am. What a wonderful project for young people to learn about the business world. There are so many competing influences on students in our schools. Mentoring and letting students get out and experience different businesses and see what’s happening out there and what their futures can be, is very important,” Kenyon said.

For 35 years, the Kansas-born farm boy treated farm animals and pets in his Cedar Falls veterinary practice. He credits his experiences growing up on a farm for his business acumen, work ethic and his ability to care about critters and the people who owned them.

“When you grow up in an agrarian society, you’re exposed to business daily – profits, losses, returns, market conditions. You learn how things work. So much of it is common sense. If you grow up in an urban setting, you see your parents go to work, come home, get up and go to work the next day, but you don’t always see the benefits of hard work,” he explained.

Kenyon began his veterinary career in the midst of the farm crisis in the 1980s, and large-animal care was an important part of his job description. He recognized that “farmers could barely care for themselves, let alone the needs of their animals. It was a challenge for a young vet, and I learned something, too. Heal the animal and heal the human heart.

“Our roots make us who we are. One of the most humbling things is to do the best job in your profession as possible and help make the community and society a better place to live,” he said in a recent Courier interview.

As the clinic’s owner, he also felt an obligation to live up to the standards his employees expected because their livelihoods depended on him. “I always had their interests foremost in mind,” Kenyon said.

Kenyon retired several years ago. At 70, he has embarked on a writing career with three books already published. The first, “The Art of Listening to the Heart,” weaves together heartwarming, humorous and sometimes heartbreaking stories of the memorable characters — both four- and two-legged varieties — he met during his years in practice. “A Cow for College,” stories about growing up on a farm in the 1950s, and “Golden Rule Days: History and Recollections of 109 Closed Kansas High Schools,” quickly followed. He is now working on a fourth book about Iowa schools.

In addition, Kenyon has been a volunteer vet for the annual Iditarod Sled Dog Races in Alaska. For the last seven years, he has been a member of a cadre of 50 vets whose job is to oversee the health, care, and well-being of sled dogs running the grueling 1,049-mile race in late winter.

‘One of the most humbling things is to do the best job in your profession as possible and help make the community and society a better place to live.’

‘One of the most humbling things is to do the best job in your profession as possible and help make the community and society a better place to live.’

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