It’s Staff Feature Friday! Today we’re getting to know more about Gail!

Name: Kathryn Gail Thiessen


How long have you worked at Parkwest?

    1 year 8 months


Why do you love working at Parkwest?!

   I enjoy the diversity of people I meet daily. Having the opportunity to “be present” in a variety of capacities for families in crisis is very rewarding. My co-workers are dedicated, hard-working, enthusiastic, caring, professionals who are a joy to work alongside. I have a super manager, who truly cares about those she manages. (Something very rare). I appreciate the ability of working a schedule that affords me time to pursue my passion as an artist during the day. It’s a win-win all around!


Where are you from? 

I started out in Kentucky, doing all my growing up in the embrace of the beautiful bluegrass  state. Completing my undergraduate degree at Morehead State University in Art & Philosophy. Then on to Cincinnati, Ohio to attend The Art Academy to study Fine Art & Design. After graduation I traveled to Atlanta, Georgia where I worked for Fortune 500 companies as art director and graphic designer, teaching in the evenings at The Art Institute of Atlanta. I met my husband, Chris  while working for a software company as a graphic designer. Our two amazing daughters were born in Atlanta. At the young age of 45, we headed back to Lexington Kentucky where I completed my Masters in Divinity. Returning to Atlanta for my Ordination then  onward to Richmond, VA to serve as Senior Pastor for a wonderful congregation. After 11 blessed years I  received a new placement in the food basket of the world, Iowa. Spending 10 years as Senior Pastor to the best mid-western congregation before retiring from formal ministry. Then, while we awaited the ability to move back east  I opened my own business, a beautiful Yarn Shop that was a joy and extremely fulfilling for 5 wonderful years. In July of 2015 my husband announced his company would transfer him to Tennessee if we were willing. Smokey Mountains here we come!


What is your favorite book?

    I always have no less than three books going at any given time. Right now I am reading: Eternal Echoes: Celtic Reflections on Our Yearning to Belong by John O’Donohue;  The Practice of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh; Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer


What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard?

     Each day is a gift, a present. Unwrap it with awe and gratitude. Use it wisely and share it with others.


What was your first job?

 Art museum guide at the Huntington Art Gallery in Huntington, W.VA. during my junior and senior years of High School. I loved sharing my passion for art with the visitors and showing them around. I gained my love of working with the public and found I enjoyed public speaking  during this time.


What is your dream vacation spot?

Anywhere in New Zealand. I spent three months, hiking, writing, painting and traveling both North and South island in 2010. I received a Lilly Grant to learn how a country embraces, influences, and practices sustainable environmental lifestyles. I lived with families during my travels, spent a lot of time alone in the beautiful landscapes, writing and painting. I stayed with Maori families and learned how their culture of environmentalism is at the very root of the countries laws regarding protecting the ocean, land, vegetation, and all living things. I have written several studies and lead retreats based on the concept: “Seeing: Through A New Lens” changing the way we see and interact with the planet that sustains us.


Did anyone have a great impact on your growing up? If so, who?

 Ina Johnson (Grandmother) She introduced me to the language of flora and fauna, and to recognize an inclusive reciprocity with our environment. She was a woman of great wisdom, knowledge and teaching who celebrated life that is both ordinary and magical.


Have you ever met anyone famous?

 I seem to have a gift for being in the right place at the right time: I met  Mic Jagger while riding an elevator at my hotel. I was attending a trade show  in Columbus, Ohio. He was there doing his last concert series. He is a very small person, soft spoken and polite. Bob Vila was in Boston doing a photo shoot for one of his PBS home series. He asked me for directions to Phinneal Hall. We chatted a bit about the beautiful architecture of the building in front of us. Iowa is a caucus state, I have met all the presidential candidates for the last two elections. I had coffee with Hillary Clinton at a local breakfast shop. She just showed up while we were eating and sat down to ask our views on several issues facing our nation. She was my first, and very poor attempt at a selfie!  President Obama came into my yarn shop and purchased a skein of yarn for a family member. He was gracious, talked with me about my shop, our local community, and was interested in my perspectives on various issues. I have the privilege of knowing several musicians, some have become great friends,  Leo Kottke, Carrie Newcomer, Ruth McClain, EmmyLou Harris, Chris Thile and a whole bunch of great bluegrass musicians too many to name!


If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?

    Norway, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime destination and the essence of it’s appeal is remarkably simple: it’s one of the most beautiful countries on earth.


Do you have any siblings? How many?

    One sister: Jennifer, retired General Counsel for the Department of Energy, Oakridge

    One brother: Les, NASA physicist, Deputy Manager for the Advanced Concepts Office at NASA; Solar Sail Principal Investigator for NASA’s first interplanetary solar sail mission. 

    Yes, I am the middle child – the artist, creative, philosopher, theologian, sandwiched between the attorney and physicist.