Adam Keul has traveled all over the world over the course of his life, and he’s worn a lot of hats along the way. He’s been an elite pole vaulter, a college professor, a tourism geographer and an entrepreneur, and each chapter of his life’s story has been as interesting as the last.
But no matter where he’s gone or what he’s done, Keul maintained his unique passion for sewing, and now the former Olympic hopeful is making the most of his time away from academics by lending his talents to Burgeon Outdoor.
A fascinating life story
Originally from Tyler, Texas, a small city not far from the border of Louisiana, Keul was taught at a young age how to sew by his mother and grandmother. Over time he learned to sew clothes, furniture and just about everything else as he nurtured the passion alongside his other big love, track and field.
One of the top pole vaulters in the country, Keul starred at John Tyler High School before going on to compete collegiately at the University of New Mexico and then at Stephen F. Austin. By the time he was finished, Keul was a four-time All-American and placed second in the NCAA during the 2001 indoor season.
Following his graduation in 2002, Keul began training for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. To help support himself financially, Keul combined his track and sewing talents and started a business where he and a coach would help local track team’s repair their pole vault mats.
“We would go, bring all of our sewing machines and the equipment and sewed different covers,” Keul said. “It’s the kind of thing where if it gets a big rip in it, there are so few people who actually know how to sew and know how the pole vault pit is supposed to be, so it was always a win-win because we could make good money and really help out.”
Keul wound up qualifying for the Olympic Trials but not for the U.S. Olympic team, so while preparing for his next chance in 2008 he began working towards his Master’s at Arizona State and then his PhD at Florida State. In the meantime he continued pole vaulting, traveling all over the world to compete - including winning the Slovenian National Title. He did qualify for the 2008 Olympic Trials, but he ultimately decided to end his Olympic dream to focus on the next stage of his life. “For a long time I couldn't decide whether I wanted to be a student or an athlete, so I did both,” Keul said. “But eventually when you’re trying to write your dissertation you have to make a choice.”
Keul’s doctorate studies focused on tourism and geography – specifically Cajun swamp tourism like what you’d see on Swamp People – and eventually his academic work would bring him to New England. He first joined the maritime studies department at UConn Avery Point and then to nearby Plymouth State University, where he currently serves as director of the university’s Tourism Management and Policy program.
Currently on leave from Plymouth State, Keul has spent the last year working for various tourism-related businesses in the area, including Alpine Adventures and the Ice Castles. By joining the Burgeon Outdoor team, Keul is able to get back to his sewing roots while continuing to immerse himself into the local community.
Making a difference
As a geographer with a wealth of knowledge about the world economy, Keul understands better than most how global supply chains and economic conditions can often lead to production being moved overseas, as well as the resulting consequences. Because of that, he has a unique appreciation for Burgeon’s commitment to manufacturing apparel within the local community.
“I teach economic geography a lot, and that’s a class where I talk about the problems that Burgeon is trying to address,” Keul said. “So I’m well aware of how textile manufacturing occurs around the world, how the garment industry works and how there’s a reason we talk about sweatshops, so the fact that they’re trying to directly counter that story, that’s just as important of a part of it as the actual fact that I know how to sew.”
“And then obviously, the environmental impacts too, those can go hand in hand. The social impact and environmental impact, often we treat them like they’re two different problems, but they’re really not,” he continued. “They come from the same kind of system, so attacking it from within is more of a practical way to change the world. We spend a lot of time writing about it and theorizing but in a lot of ways this is walking the walk.”
In addition, Keul said he also loves getting to further immerse himself in the White Mountains community, and Burgeon has been an ideal place to do so.
“I knew going into it that a lot of it was going to be me fitting in with the group there and sitting around and telling stories,” he said. “So I really love it, it’s awesome.”
"Adam brings a great work ethic to Burgeon. He is always looking to improve his skills, learn new ones, and is the first to volunteer to help out. I can see why he was such a successful athlete. He is a great addition to our team both for the work he does as a stitcher, but more importantly how he makes everyone at Burgeon a little bit better." -- Burgeon Founder Rudy Glocker
If you’d like to meet Keul or any other member of the Burgeon Outdoor team, come on by the store. Burgeon Outdoor is open Sunday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Thanks for reading our blog. You can save 20% on your next Burgeon order with coupon code "Adam", now through May 31st, 2021.
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Burgeon Outdoor was founded in 2019. Burgeon’s mission is to help mountain communities flourish. Burgeon proudly manufactures premium outdoor apparel in Lincoln, NH. By manufacturing locally, Burgeon creates year round jobs in the White Mountains. 5% of Burgeon’s sales support its community and environmental efforts. To learn more, please visit our studio at the Village Shops in Lincoln, our website burgeonoutdoor.com or call us at 603-745-7123.