Member Spotlight: Gregory Kenyon

Gregory Kenyon

Tell us about yourself
In addition to practicing law for 42 years (the last six months in more casual wear than I could have ever imagined), I’ve been married to Pam for 38 years, have two adult children, Samantha and Nick; three grandsons, Charlie, Jack and Ben; and a great son-in-law, Chris.

I was born and grew up in Creston, in southwest Iowa. I come from a family of lawyers – my father, Arnold Kenyon, was a county seat lawyer for over 50 years. My mother, Joy, was a nurse (and valedictorian of her high school and college classes); she was whip smart. My lawyering brothers, Skip (Arnold O III) is past president of the ISBA and Tim is the Union County Attorney. Both have had long, successful careers in Creston. My younger sister Cyndee escaped the family curse and has been a child educator since her graduation from University of Iowa.

What are some of your notable achievements?
Most recently, I have served on the steering committee for Iowa Supreme Court Task Force to reform guardianships and conservatorships. I serve on the steering committee for The Cady Cup, a golf match between Drake and Iowa law schools which raises money for Iowa Legal Aid; and I served as chair of the ISBA probate section and also as chair of ISBA elder law section. I served as chair of West Des Moines Human Services. As a Drake Law grad, I received the under-40 alumni achievement award (with Pam), and also the Alumni of Year award from Drake Law. I received legislative awards from ISBA for assistance during several legislative sessions.

Why did you choose to practice law?
It was hard to miss the good that lawyering could do for other people while growing up. A sense of service to others was a long-standing expectation. And so while it might seem a little trite, I wanted to help people.

Did you always want to be an attorney?
Only until I realized I wasn’t going to be a professional athlete. When it became evident that my rare combination of being small and slow did not garner a lot of attention from professional scouts, it was necessary to change my focus.

What advice would you give to newer attorneys that you wish you knew when you started practicing?
Get involved with the Polk County Bar and Iowa State Bar and volunteer for civic and charitable causes. I was very fortunate to have mentors (my father for one, and my first law partner Dan Stamatelos for another) who encouraged me to get involved in projects bigger than myself, such as the bar association, Drake Law School, and in the community. This led to meeting many interesting people and many gratifying experiences. The idea of connecting and networking is critical to long-term success.

What do you do to get away from work?
During this time of the pandemic, I’ve become an avid walker and take several laps around the neighborhood to just refresh. I follow my favorite sports teams (Drake basketball, Cubs baseball, Bears and Chiefs football), and have been known to squeeze in a round of golf. We gather in small groups with family or friends, I’m an active member at Plymouth Church, and we like to get away with family each summer to Okoboji, We feel fortunate that our adult children still like us and want to spend time with us. The NYTimes crossword is how I like to end the day.

What is the best thing about the Polk County Bar Association?
It fosters collegiality and cooperation. The PCBA helps us understand that we are integral parts of the judicial system. We can work together to resolve disputes.

Best place to visit in Polk County?
There are many on my list: Sec Taylor stadium (Principal Park to some), the State Judicial Building, Drake Stadium during the Relays, Waterworks Park, Waveland Golf Course, and Peggy’s Tavern (when it’s open).

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
The centerfielder for the San Francisco Giants, or guard for the Boston Celtics.

If you could choose anyone, who would you pick as your mentor and why?
I have been very fortunate to have wonderful mentors, my father, youth baseball coaches, John Jackson and Ron Clinton, my first law partner Dan Stamatelos. Everyone should be as lucky as I was. My goal is to pass this along, to try and be as good a mentor to others, as they were for me.

What is your favorite book?
Whatever I am currently reading: Bill Bryson’s work – Notes from a Small Island, Thunderbolt Kid, Appalachian Trail, 1927. Books and essays by David Sedaris. To Kill a Mockingbird. Agatha Christie mystery novels. I am also partial to the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling

What songs would you include on the soundtrack to your life?
Leon Russell, A Song for You; Frank Sinatra, Fly Me to the Moon; Bobby Darin, Mack the Knife, Van Morrison, Brown Eyed Girl; Beethoven, Moonlight Sonata; Gershwin, Rhapsody in Blue; Simon Estes,  Amazing Grace; Ray Charles, Hit the Road Jack and America the Beautiful; Elvis, Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues; and Elton John, Benny and the Jets.

What do you know today that you wished you knew when you began the practice of law?
Listen carefully to your clients and colleagues and take a moment to contemplate before acting. Sometimes as young attorneys we are so eager to “do” something that we may not do what is most important. Or as one experienced attorney said to me, please do not mistake activity for accomplishment.

Words to live by?
I like this quote which is attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson and it’s also on the back of the business card that Joy Corning handed to her friends and acquaintances for years. I like to think I’m in good company: “What is success? To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

This is the latest in a series of features spotlighting PCBA members. If you would like to nominate a fellow PCBA member for future spotlights, contact Joni Ploeger.