Ten Things to Know About Davidson’s Interim President

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President Emeritus John Wells Kuykendall ’59 is “glad for the privilege of doing it again.”

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By Meg Kimmel

1 Pronouncing his name : Say kirk´-in-doll. Think Captain Kirk.

2 Positions at Davidson: Alumni office intern, 1960; assistant dean of students, 1961; 15th president, 1984 to 1997; fulltime professor of religion, 1997 to 2003; interim president, 2010–.

3 How he got here: It was “a family affair,” he says. His dad, Class of 1927, was a devoted alumnus, and often brought his two boys to campus for games and events. “He imbued me with an affectionate regard for Davidson—not so much as a place to go to college, but as a place.”

4 His main objective? “To get out of this alive!” Seriously, he realizes that “you can’t step into the same creek twice. “I was 45 years old in 1984. Now I am three score and ten, plus two. I certainly had more stamina and energy then—but I hope I can ‘play smart’ this time.”

5 His real main objective? To bolster enthusiasm during the search and “to see The Davidson Trust prosecuted in anappropriate way.” As an alumnus who benefitted from financial aid, he was enthusiastic when the trustees passed the policy to meet need without loans in 2007. “I thought, golly, why didn’t I think of that? I wanted to be a part of it in any way I could, and I still mean that.”

6 His family: In 1961, he married Nancy “Missy” Moore. They have two sons, Tim and Jamie, who were teenagers when he became Davidson’s 15th president. Missy is his best friend.

7 Morning ritual: Up early, read, meditate, walk two-to-four miles with the family border collie, Maggie. Every day.

8 Most difficult moment as president? Confronting changes in the athletics program, particularly football. “Nothing was harder, but it is gratifying today to see how athletics contributes to our larger community.”

9 The next president? He believes he or she can be named by the summer, someone who will understand and embrace Davidson values. “I don’t think that limits our search to alumni. It is about having the right instincts. And when the person is chosen, I will be the head cheerleader— eager to clean out my desk.”

10 When the interim is over? He’ll resume his daily routine of mornings in his carrel in Little Library and visits to Alvarez College Union—“although I won’t be so anonymous for a while.”

Read 10 More things below, listen to Kuykendall’s seminal Honor Code speech, and read his honorary degree citation from fall ’09 convocation. (pdf)

11 Happiest time? “Relatively speaking, I’ve had a very happy life, but my four years as a Davidson student were certainly among the happiest.”

12 At Davidson: He majored in English; played varsity soccer; introduced the student-led Honor Code when he was SGA president; belonged to Phi Delta Theta and earned a Phi Beta Kappa key.

13 Freshman dorm? West—now Cannon.

14 Proudest moments of his (first) presidency: “The tough things [President Emeritus] Sam Spencer did—with coeducation, with what we now call Patterson Court, and with the athletic program—really set the stage for Davidson to ‘run with the big dogs.’ We had been a national entity in flashes and sparks in the past, but in the ’80s, we really got there. And we have stayed there.”

15 Biggest differences between 1959 and 1984? “Two things. First, of course, coeducation: What a wonderful and profound change to community life! And second, all the new facilities: a sparkling new library, the beautiful Commons—it was a different place. “

16 And between 1997 and now? He’s “been away but not been away,” after retiring in 2006. Many former colleagues and friends are still here. “I participated in hiring four of the members now serving on the principle executive staff. “

17 What about the strategic plan? He’s very impressed with the plan and has been studying a thick binder with its details. “I need to see the places where it is appropriate for me to push on to a conclusion, and where it is better to wait for the new president.”

18 His favorite place on campus? Alvarez College Union. It was “a dream that I had when I was president. I find it infinitely intriguing to see what is going on in there, no matter what time, day or night.”

19 First thought when approached about being interim president? As Angelo Roncalli said when he became Pope John XXIII—“This was one of God’s little surprises!”

20 Looking forward to? “Going back to being retired in Davidson, which is one of the most delightful things I can imagine.”

Photo Credit: Bill Giduz

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