Ask Kent Withington and he’ll tell you how much he enjoys the opportunity to do new and different things. That fact is clear when you look at his 26-year career at Pfizer and his life since then.
Kent joined Pfizer in 1975, after a tour of duty in the Navy, as a sales representative for the Chemical Division covering North and South Carolina. When he retired in 2001, he was the communications manager for Corporate Information Technology in New York City. In between, he held several positions within the company, including business manager for Oil Field Products Group. The Oil Field Products Group was a new business venture of Pfizer’s Chemical Division started during the oil shortage in the early 1980s to sell FLOCON 4800, a patented Pfizer chemical that helped oil companies extract oil more efficiently. Kent considers this assignment one of his most interesting and rewarding projects at Pfizer.
“It was fascinating to learn about oil companies and the industry,” he said. And it felt good to be selling a product that was helping offset some of the high prices of oil at the time. Kent remained with the venture for six years before moving on to other assignments. He transferred from the Chemical Division to Corporate Information Technology in 1989.
But even during his tenure at Pfizer, Kent was thinking about life after retirement, and the idea of taking another, very different assignment – being a chaplain.
As an active member of his church, Kent often served as the visitation minister, visiting church members at home or in the hospital when they became ill. The idea of becoming a chaplain after his retirement stayed in the back of his mind.
Soon after retiring from Pfizer, he went to work for four years with the Billy Graham Crusades, providing spiritual counseling for new followers. Dr. Graham’s final crusade brought Kent back to New York City in 2005. It was after that experience that Kent decided to pursue training as a chaplain.
He volunteered as chaplain in the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina. Currently, Kent serves as chaplain for the Asheville, NC, police and country sheriff, Missions Hospitals, the Biltmore Estate and for his church. Twice a year he has the opportunity to serve with Raceway Ministries at the Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee, home of one of NASCAR’s largest venues – 165,000 spectators.
The experience in each setting is different – from crisis chaplaincy to counseling the sick to counseling corporate employees about everyday life problems – and that’s just the way Kent likes it. “Most chaplains focus on one area,” said Kent. “I like the diversity.”
He also likes the fact that in his retirement he is affecting people’s lives in a different way than he did when he worked for a large company. “I feel like I’m making a different kind of contribution to the world. I’m impacting individual people. I can say I made a difference for this person.”