Baker student remembers deceased roommate as he readies for graduation
Bryan Kindle loved his years at Baker University, but they were not without pain and sorrow.
Kindle will be among about 300 fall semester undergraduates who receive their diplomas from Baker President Pat Long at a commencement starting a 1 p.m. Sunday at Collins Gymnasium.
The 22-year-old son of Gary and Arline Kindle of Eudora is a dual math and secondary education major who first enrolled at Baker in the fall of 2009. The draw was the chance to play college baseball.
“I can’t imagine going to college without playing a sport,” he said. “Playing baseball allowed me to keep on top of my studies.”
Kindle didn’t get on the diamond the spring of his freshmen year. In January 2010, he was first laid up with pancreatitis and then pancreas carditis. Then, one morning in late March, he woke up to find something wrong with his arm.
“My right arm was purple, but when I raised my hand over my head it returned to normal,” he said.
It took sometime for doctors to correctly diagnose Kindle’s rare and life-threatening problem. But after an MRI at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, he was admitted to St. Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City.
The third baseman had developed muscles that restricted blood flow in his subclavian vein, causing blood to pool and eventually form a clot, Kindle said.
“I had five operations and one major surgery in 17 days,” he said. “They shaved my top rib and a muscle to relieve the pressure and put a stint in my vein.”
Kindle was able to complete his studies that semester despite his hospital stay and recovery.
“I missed three weeks of school,” he said. “If I’d been at a bigger school, I would have lost the semester. Because I had a good relationship with my professors, they helped me through it. I got my work made up and passed all my classes. It was hard, though. I went to see tutors every night and worked with my professors.”
Dealing with the injuries made him stronger, Kindle said, and also gave him direction. It was while suffering from a serious elbow problem while in high school that he decided to become a teacher and coach.
“My doctor told me it was 50-50 if I’d be able to play baseball again,” he said. “I decided I wanted to be a high school coach so I could stay around the game.”
The summer after his sophomore year brought a different kind of pain — the death of teammate, roommate and friend, Tyler Jeck, who drowned in July 2011 in an Arkansas lake.
“Tyler was a great guy,” he said. “Everybody liked him. He was a pre-med major and really interesting and intelligent. We’d be up to 3 in the morning talking. He was my best friend.”
But Kindle was able to move beyond his health problems and grief to excel in the classroom. This fall, he was one of two Baker students the Kansas Department of Education honored as Teachers of Promise. The department presents the award to two education majors in Kansas colleges to recognize, recruit and retain the best future Kansas teachers. With the recognition, Kindle attended the department’s annual teacher awards banquet last month in Wichita and met the department’s director.
Kindle recently completed his practice teaching assignment at Blue Valley West. He said he would substitute teach in the Blue Valley district and others in the area as he sought a full-time job teaching math next year.
Although he chose the teaching career because of his desire to coach high school baseball, he now has the same passion for teaching math, Kindle said.
“Math is not the favorite subject for a lot of students,” he said. “I know not every student is going to love it, but I want my students to be open minded and not dread coming to class. I want it to be an enjoyable environment for them.”
Kindle found more than a vocation at Baker. He met his fiancée, Heather Gruber, his freshmen year, when he was one of 12 male students placed in a wing of a women’s dorm.
“She graduated in nursing in May,” he said. “She is a neo-natal intensive-care nurse at Overland Park Regional Hospital. We’re going to get married May 3.”
He also is leaving the school with close ties to teammates and Baker baseball coach Phil Hannon, close relationships with his professors and an affection for the place he has spent the past four-and-a-half years.
“I loved my time here,” he said. “You walk on campus, and even if you don’t have close relationships with everybody, you’ve seen them and know who they are. Playing baseball allowed me to build relationships I’ll have for the rest of my life.”