Kinoti family brings Kenyan heritage, service mindset to Denver and beyond
It’s quite possible that no family is more of a “Regis family” than the Kinotis.
M.D. Kinoti — simply called Kinoti by those who know him — has been a professor of nonprofit management at Regis for 10 years. Tim, his eldest son, graduated from Regis in 2018 and stuck around as a campus associate for Student Services. Wega, Tim’s younger brother, is a sophomore computer science major.
Their collective story is an unlikely one for a family with roots in a poverty-stricken rural area of Kenya.
“I come from a very, very poor family, and there's no way I would have imagined being able to get [my children] through school,” Kinoti said.
Kinoti grew up in central Kenya and met his wife, Victoria, at Moi University in western Kenya. After they married, he worked in Nairobi for the global nonprofit World Vision International. By 1999, Tim had been born and the family immigrated to America — to Pasadena, Calif., as Kinoti pursued graduate studies and additional work experience in the nonprofit sector.
Kinoti remembers the extreme difficulties of trying to provide for his family and advance his career during his first few years in the United States.
“I came from working for World Vision about seven years and had gotten into management,” he said. “I knew what to do. I lived in Kenya for those many years. Uprooting all that and coming to a very new and different culture, community and everything else — completely losing my status as a manager in a big organization and being a student — that was tough.”
The family persevered, and after a stop in San Luis Obispo, Calif., Kinoti landed a faculty position at Regis in 2010. Since their arrival in Colorado, the family has found Regis an ideal place to center themselves.
“It's [my] prayer for Tim and Wega to stay grounded in faith in Christ and then to use that faith as a motivation for service,” Kinoti said. “Just being in this community gives us those two things and helps us to do both of them very well.”
To Tim and Wega, service has become a family mindset rather than merely a regular activity. The family has volunteered for myriad organizations, including the Food Bank of the Rockies, Metro Caring and the city of Westminster. Victoria works as a middle school special education teacher, and Kinoti volunteers for Rotary International and provides opportunities for his Regis students to serve nonprofits.
“I think our family would definitely be characterized by service and living lives for others while also working hard on our education,” Tim said.
Tim and Wega have been heavily involved on campus during their Regis careers, both serving as student senators, playing intramural sports and joining the University’s Black Student Alliance.
Tim is taking MBA classes at Regis while he works and is considering law school. Wega dreams of applying his computer science skills in the private sector, but is focusing first on making the most of his time as a Ranger.
“I didn't really want to go anywhere else than Regis, due to the fact that a lot of people here are nicer and it's a really welcoming place,” Wega said.
Kinoti returns to Africa yearly, bringing Regis students on experiential learning trips to Uganda and Rwanda through the Master of Nonprofit Management program. He also travels to Kenya during summers on research and service trips, and his family have accompanied him multiple times.
The family likely will visit Kenya again within the next few years. For now, they’re content at Regis while they carry on the Kenyan heritage that links them.
“I feel blessed to be in this environment, especially when I teach classes like Global Poverty, classes that I can bring my own experience into,” Kinoti said. “There is a perspective that is slightly different from what everybody else has. I think that makes learning and engagement in general richer for all of us.”