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ALUM SPOTLIGHT--Kevin Gover '78

Meet Kevin Gover '78, head of the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI)


KEVIN GOVER '78: Embracing Change among Native Americans

Kevin Gover -- Director of the National Museum of the American Indian -- was our Princeton Prize Awards speaker in June 2008, and our host during PCW's visit to the NMAI.

I grew up in Lawton and Norman, Oklahoma, attending public schools through
the ninth grade. From there I was off to St. Paul’s School in Concord, NH,
thanks to a Princeton grad who worked with my father at a non-profit concerned
with the rights of American Indians.
 
One key decision on campus turned out to be the chance to major at the
Woodrow Wilson School, which opened up many options for me.

My years after graduation were pivotal. I attended law school at the University
of New Mexico, and it turned out that I was good at legal reasoning and analysis.
From there I set off on a legal career.

Most memorable in my worklife is the work I did in the California and New
Mexico legislatures on behalf of tribes. In California, we managed to defeat
a bill that attempted to deny the tribes their right to regulate environmental
quality on the reservations. In New Mexico, meanwhile, we successfully
pursued legislation that authorized the tribes to establish casino gambling
on their reservations.

My wife Anne Marie and I have been married for nearly ten years. We have
four children and five grandchildren between us. Both of my parents are
deceased. They were both civil rights activists and would have been stunned
and overjoyed at the election of President Obama. I have a sister who’s a
lawyer, and a sister who is an elementary school teacher. I have dozens
of aunts and uncles, cousins, and nieces and nephews to try to keep track of.

The focus of my life is my work at the National Museum of the American Indian
and it's all consuming these days. When I’m not in a meeting on programs at
the museum or the management of the Museum, I’m at a meeting on the same
matters regarding the entire Smithsonian Institution.

In my spare time I read a great deal, watch cable news, and watch primetime
cop shows.

My advice to alumni: Be ready for change, especially you younger alums.
I had intended to spend my life practicing law, ideally at one firm, and I am
genuinely surprised at the turns my career has taken.  I don’t regret at all the
many changes in course, and I think of myself as being rather change-averse.
But it’s all turned out great.


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