Dr. Cole-Kiernan began his College career in Civil engineering, and completed a degree at New York University. He fulfilled his military obligation in the United States Army, and was on active duty for three and a half years during which time he became a qualified army aviator. After his army service, he returned to school and completed a Masters and doctorate at Fordham University in Philosophy.
He began teaching philosophy at St Peter’s College in Jersey City in 1964. This urban, liberal arts school emphasized the importance of a broad humanities core, which included a two course, six credit requirement in philosophy.
Over all the years of his teaching, Professor Cole-Kiernan introduced thousands of students to the rare air of philosophical thought, but he also repeatedly told them that philosophy was significant and practical in their everyday lives. A major factor supporting Cole-Kiernan’s claim of practicality for philosophy was his engineering background. Engineering is an eminently practical field. Things have to work, and the matching of the exactness of mathematics and science to the workings of things proved to be a valuable resource for explaining philosophy’s abstractions to the connections in our everyday lives.
His interest in American Philosophy, especially the work of William James and John Dewey were a highly relevant supplement to this concern of his that philosophy be recognized as important in our day-to-day living.
Over the years of his teaching, his emphasis on the practicality of philosophy has been deepened in a number of ways. The Public Policy program at St Peter’s College was a unique program that targeted civil service and social workers, especially people of color, and provided them with a unique opportunity to go to college full time while they were working full time. Philosophy as practical was especially important to them. Professor Cole-Kiernan taught in this program for twenty years.
In 1986 Cole-Kiernan was awarded a seven week grant to study at the University of Hawaii at the Institute of Comparative Philosophy with nineteen other undergraduate philosophy teachers from all over the United States. During these seven weeks, the program explored the connections, similarities and differences between Eastern and Western philosophical viewpoints, a further emphasis for his concerns for the practical aspects of philosophy for individuals.