Ken Mohney is archaeology’s ‘rare gem’

Even at the age of 55, Ken Mohney still likes playing in the dirt.

The 20-year professor of anthropology, known as “Dr. Ken” to his MCCC students, said he takes any chance he can to go outside and put his education to work.

“I love to go out into the field and wish I could do more,” he said. “I’m hoping to get out here and do some in the very near future, collaborating with other people.”

During his career, Mohney said he has likely worked on 100 or more archaeological sites.

Perched in his office at the college in the C Building, surrounded by stacks of textbooks, boxes of teaching materials and a picture of Indiana Jones, it’s hard to think Mohney didn’t always know the career path he would choose.

Ken Mohney, professor of anthropology. (Photo by Reese Bowling)

However, when the husband and father of three enrolled in college in 1987, he began in a very different field.

“I signed up to be a psychology major because I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life when I was 18,” Mohney said. “But I took every class in anthropology and archaeology that was offered, starting during the winter semester of 1988.”

He started his undergraduate journey at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, earning his bachelor’s degree in psychology. Mohney then went on to earn his doctorate in anthropology, with a focus on archaeology, in 2002 from the University of Pittsburgh’s main campus.

A native of Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, Mohney worked as a cultural resources management archaeologist with several private firms, most recently Skelly and Loy, Inc., before coming to MCCC in 2004. He now lives in Toledo, Ohio.

Though he didn’t foresee going into the field originally, Mohney’s fascination with anthropology started at a young age.

“When I was 8 or 9 years old, my uncle sent me a book for my birthday. It was ‘Our World’ by National Geographic, a kid’s atlas of the world,” he said. “That was my favorite book ever and I still have it on my bookshelf at home. Once in a while, for old time’s sake, I’ll take it out and flip through it.”

He said kids from Mount Pleasant don’t become anthropologists, so he didn’t consider it as a career option until he went to school.

Another source of inspiration for Mohney came in the form of one of his first professors.

Anthony Boldurian, professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, said he remembers Mohney at the beginning of his college career.

“Ken was one of my students in my very first archaeology class,” he said. “He subsequently took every course I taught at that time. He became my star student.”

They maintained a close working relationship throughout Mohney’s time at the school, and now the two men make time to talk each week.

“Dr. Boldurian made me want to go into the field and gave me different opportunities,” Mohney said. “He told me, ‘Whatever you want to do, there is always room for good people.’”

Well before Mohney embarked on his career in anthropology, Boldurian said he recognized many unique qualities in his students. He describes Mohney as genial, forthright, compassionate, loyal and responsible.

“He also happens to be, and this will embarrass him if it ever comes out that I said this, a brilliant man,” Boldurian said.

Throughout his over 40 years of experience as an archaeologist, Boldurian said he has met few people like Mohney working in his field.

“In archaeology, he is a rare gem,” Boldurian said. “In archaeology, people tend to be very brash and very self-confident and, quite frankly, arrogant. When you get someone like Ken who comes along and is just pure, unadulterated to the point where whatever you see you know you are getting, it makes you warm in your heart.”

During his time as a professor at MCCC, Mohney has made strides in trying new methods to teach his discipline to students. Beverly Tomek, dean of humanities/social sciences, can attest to this.

Tomek remembers Mohney as one of the first people she met when she came to MCCC in July 2023. He was on her hiring committee, and she said she was impressed with his dedication.

“What stuck out to me about Ken is his enthusiasm for his subject and his students,” she said. “I also love how he keeps close track of the curriculum and wants to bring in new things for his students. He’s very innovative as a teacher.”

Tomek said Mohney has brought experimental learning tools into his classroom, which she believes makes the subject of anthropology more authentic for students at MCCC. She said

he has shared with her updates he wants to make to the curriculum, using new methods and techniques.

Reflecting on his career, Mohney said he did not always know where he would end up.

Although getting his hands dirty and working in the field is one of his first loves, Mohney said he always had a feeling he was meant to be a teacher.

“I loved college. It was at some point in that winter semester of 1988 that I decided that I wanted to be a professor,” Mohney said. “That’s what I wanted to do, even though I was a freshman. Everything came into sharp focus and I’m so glad it did.”