A Visit With Ken Gaulden
by Barrie Smith
19 July 2009

Ken Gaulden - 1962

Ken Gaulden lives in Potomac City with his wife Siriwan. She is the daughter of two Chinese parents who lived in Thailand. They have two sons and two grand children. They spend their winters in Thailand each year. They enjoy travel, golf, bike riding and skiing. Ken has lived most of his life on the east coast or in Southeast Asia because of his work in the container cargo shipping business. This is his story.

Ken was finishing is second year at Fullerton College in Southern California. He enjoyed basketball but did not feel that he was making much progress in his life. He had tried to volunteer for the Army with many of his buddies but was turned down because of spinal scoliosis. In 1968 he had an opportunity to work for a civilian contractor in Southeast Asia shipping supplies for the Vietnam War effort. He felt that the only way he could find out what he could really do with his life was to leave the place where he had grown up. He decided to 'run away from home' and went to Vietnam. After working on shipping contracts for a while he was asked by a company, which would later become 'SeaLand Service', to do a Southeast Asia shipping feasibility study with Vietnam as the hub. He participated in startup operations in both the Philippines and Singapore. In 1972 he launched an operation to Thailand. He needed a competent secretary who could speak good English. After screenings and interviews he hired Siriwan.

Siriwan was born in Thailand. At eight years of age her parents took her out of regular schools and placed her in an English speaking Catholic school. When she graduated she entered an English speaking secretarial school and attended an English club in the evenings. She spoke Thai, Chinese and English. She was hard working and traditional, but with lofty goals and aspirations.

After Ken hired her, he could tell that she took her job very seriously. Over the next six months of their relationship he decided that he wanted to get to know her better. He asked her for a date several times. He always got the same answer - "No." After weeks of puzzling, one day he said to her, "I really want to know you better. If you won't go out with me, Will you marry me?" He had to first meet with her family and then her boyfriend to show that he was really serious. They were married in 1973. Their first child was born in 1975. They lived in Bangkok until 1976.

Container shipping was becoming big business in the United States and all over the world. Ken was put in charge of 'SeaLand's Southern California operations'. He moved his family to Irvine, California. In 1979 they moved to New Jersey where the U.S. Corporate Offices were. He went to The Hague, Netherlands in 1983, back to Washington D.C. in 1987, New Jersey in 1989, and Washington D.C. in 1993. During each of these moves Ken was learning more about the business, more about government policies and moving up the corporate ladder. In 1999 'SeaLand' was purchased by a Dutch company, AP Moller Maersk. Ken was asked to run the Government container business for the new company for one year, while they looked for someone permanent. For the next seven years he was the Chief Commercial Officer of this growing business segment. He found that he enjoyed the 'hands on business' better than the traditional corporate management structure. "I ended my career doing entrepreneurial business ventures which is where I started. I felt lucky I was able to do it."

When my wife and I met with Ken and Siriwan in Alexandria, Virginia we were impressed by their happy and engaging personalities. Ken had left home but came back knowing that he had been able to do something positive and fulfilling with his life. Both Ken and his wife look forward to reconnecting with other RAHS 1962 classmates.

Siriwan and Ken Gaulden - 2009 Jan and Barrie Smith and Ken and Siriwan Gaulden