All Posts Tagged Tag: ‘John Kuykendall’

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John W. Kuykendall ’59 on the Honor Code: “An Experiment in Trust Continues”


President Emeritus John W. Kuykendall ’59 often glances down at the red spirit bracelet that he, like many Davidsonians, wears on his wrist in support of The Davidson Trust.

“‘Davidson trusted me.’ That’s not a bad way to start and end my day!” Kuykendall told a nearly standing-room-only 900 Room at Common Hour on Thursday. The Davidson Trust is the college’s commitment to meet 100 percent of demonstrated financial need of accepted students through a combination of grants and campus employment, without relying on loans, in support of the college’s longstanding commitment to need-blind admission.

Kuykendall stood before us to talk about other aspects of trust as well, he said, commending the broad, essential definition of the word that includes honor and civility and personal commitment. Specifically, he was there to talk about Davidson’s Honor Code, in an Honor Council Speaker Series talk that was part of the “Ten Days of Trust” events leading up to the annual, student-led Dinner at Davidson fundraiser tonight. His talk, “An Experiment in Trust Continues,” was an update of a 2009 iteration, “An Experiment in Trust.”

“If you quote from your own work without attribution, is it plagiarism?” he wondered aloud, to knowing, appreciative laughter.

Davidson’s Honor Code is not unique in letter, but is certainly so in spirit and in particularity, said Kuykendall, who was president of the student body when the Honor Council came into being. He recalled some of the conversations of that time, when the student body leaders who applied and also protected the Honor Code saw a need to separate the legislative and judicial functions of their work. There was also no insignificant discussion then of the proper roles of forgiveness and grace and redemption and reconciliation, he said, all aspects of the Reformed Tradition on which Davidson itself was founded. From those discussions, the Honor Council in more or less its current form was born.

Kuykendall is an orator of the foremost ranks, whose expressive cadences translate well into his own written word but perhaps less so to others’. So I encourage you to make time, take time or otherwise shake out some time to stop, look and listen (above) to his most recent thoughts on this quintessentially Davidson topic.

“We may be swimming against the tide,” he said, the sad note in his voice undergirded by quiet defiance as he related some latest statistics on cheating in high school. “At Davidson, your word is your bond, and your work must be your own. Welcome to ‘the bubble,’ so they say. Weal or woe—and let’s hope it’s weal—you are in the middle of it…. But I don’t like ‘the Davidson bubble.’ Davidson is not a bubble. It is a crucible.”

Kuykendall further encouraged listeners to read President Carol Quillen’s recent article on The Huffington Post, “Trust’s Legacy: Davidson’s Honor Code.”

I will add to that a link to alma mater’s bedrock Statement of Purpose. I still have the paper copy that came with my letter of employment in 2001. It is good to read it regularly, just as it’s good to read and hear the current thoughts of both Kuykendall and Quillen on trust, on honor, on what Davidson means in the world today.

I say thank you to them both, in the same spirit that every person in the 900 Room yesterday stood when Kuykendall was finished. It was an ovation for a speech well-delivered, yes, but it was more than that. It was a matter of honor, alive, here, now, unique in spirit and in particularity.



Davidson Gentlemen Unite (No Introductions Needed): The Honorable Bow Tie Gets Its Propers


(l-r) Class of 2013 mates Tim Keating, Drew Onken and Wills Cooper’s senior portrait in the Rare Book Room of E.H. Little Library made the gentlemanly cover page of the Web site (Not pictured, Marcus Carson.)

Davidson shout-outs abound on Carolina Cotton Bow Ties, a business site devoted to fashion aficionados fond of affixing bow ties below stylish chins. “The Davidson Gentleman” bow tie is so named—or re-named, as it turns out—because of a recent order by a Davidson parent for several of the red-and-black houndstooth-checked confections.

“The Davidson Gentleman”: Click to visit page.

Martha Keating, mom of Tim Keating ’13, ordered four of the natty knottables, then named “Portland,” to help celebrate the graduation of her son and three of his swimming and diving teammates. In conversation online with Carolina Bow Ties, Martha Keating shared her knowledge of Davidson gentlemanliness (“A Davidson gentleman needs no introduction,” among other truisms), as evidenced by her son Tim, Drew Onken ’13, Wills Cooper ’13 and Marcus Carson ’13. The next thing you know, three of these four sons of dear old Davidson are pictured on the Carolina Bow Tie Web site in the traditional pose of senior portraits taken in the Smith Rare Book Room!

There’s even a follow-up blog entry on the site about the tie’s name change, “What’s in a name?”

Bowties have a proud history at Davidson, as the good folks in Archives and Special Collections (the minders of the Rare Book Room itself) attest photographically, below. (For more fun historical trivia, subscribe to their “Around the D” blog!)

President Emeritus John W. Kuykendall ’59 in the 1956 yearbook.


President John Rood “Slick John the Divine” Cunningham, 1941-1957.


From the college scrapbook of Robert Marston Clifton ’29

Prospective “Davidson Gentleman” bowtie customers Thomas Hazel ’92, Harrison Marshall ’79, Jamie Kiser ’86 and John Kuykendall ’59 (photo Bill Giduz) (click to enlarge)

Kuykendall e-mail excerpt on the bow-tied 2013 seniors, now his fellow alumni: “I didn’t know these guys, but I like them already. The movement is gaining momentum! Like the fact that they used the Rare Book Room for the signature snap.”

Dr. D: Quintessential Davidson Gentleman, Chalmers Davidson ’28, longtime director of the library and college archivist

Welcome Back, Kuykendall!


He’s back!

John Wells Kuykendall ’59, president of the college 1984-97, has now entered his second full week on the job in a second go-round, as Davidson’s interim president. Dr. Kuykendall’s first stint in the top gig was my senior year, and I’m pleased as punch I get yet another crack at life on campus with him at the helm. He is a leader par excellence of the servant-leader type, a man named John doing his best to inspire respect and good humor for, of, and by everyone in the room. Everyone.

From the infamous "hairdos" issue of the Davidson Journal, Spring 2008. *Clickable.*

From the college’s Statement of Purpose: “The primary purpose of Davidson College is to assist students in developing humane instincts and disciplined and creative minds for lives of leadership and service.” Much of that development today takes place out in the surrounding community, as Davidson students’ minds, hearts, and hands go to work helping neighbors.

That’s true for alumni as well. The college’s premier alumni award for community service is named for Kuykendall, and it has gone to some of our alumni body’s most well-known servant-leaders. Having written about many more of those alumni and traveled this wide land visiting some of them, I can tell you first-hand that the spirit of service pervades the lives of many, many alumni in many, many forms—well-known and not! Some of those forms, indeed, are designed to be less well-known, and sometimes they are the better for it. True service is its own reward; awards are gravy. Of course, it can be hard to talk about such things without sounding all self-righteous. JWK can do it. Remember his “Experiment in Trust” talk on the Honor Code at Fall 2009 Convocation? Wow. (Click link above and scroll to Oct. 24, 2009 for audio or video, or click transcript.)

Meanwhile, community service is another way that many people outside the college will know John Kuykendall’s work, even if they don’t know him. Under his leadership, Davidson strengthened its commitment to service by, among other things, establishing the Bonner Scholars Program, a four-year scholarship program that helps students bring about positive community change through service, research and action. Davidson’s Bonner Scholars Program is one of the oldest in the nation, and some 90 percent of Davidson students now participate in some sort of service each year.

A sampling of community partners of the college’s Community Service Office is bound to ring a holiday bell or two within a 10-minute drive of this gracious campus: Ada Jenkins Center, HealthReach Community Clinic, Mooresville Soup Kitchen, Our Towns Habitat for Humanity, Cornelius Animal Shelter, The Pines at Davidson, Serenity House, Hope House, The Bin, Hinds’ Feet Farm…. The list goes on, as does Davidson’s core work in “developing humane instincts and disciplined and creative minds for lives of leadership and service.”

I’m grateful to be in a place, geographically and virtually, filled with people reminding me and helping me to be my best possible person, for my sake and the sake of my neighbors far and wide. Not a bad frame of mind for a…

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!