J. Whitner Kennedy, 1888-1891
Joseph Whitner Kennedy became the third president of Presbyterian College in 1888. Raised in Williamston, South Carolina, Kennedy attended Davidson College and was an educator and the Superintendent of Public Education in Greenville County for two years. He came to Clinton as the principal of the preparatory department of Clinton High School and taught English literature in the collegiate department. He had been admitted to the bar in 1883 but preferred educational work.
During his brief tenure at PC, Clinton College was re-chartered in 1890 as the Presbyterian College of South Carolina, the curriculum was modernized, and the college received sixteen acres across Broad Street from Recitation Hall for the development of the West Plaza.
“This gift of land immediately sparked the first really productive action on the part of the fledgling Alumni Association, which endorsed the plan to raise $2,500 to build a dormitory [Alumni Hall] on the new site” (Hammet, 12). In 1891, the college had been in operation only ten years, thus alumni fundraising was limited to the twenty-three graduates of the college up to that point (Registrar’s Book of Graduates, Presbyterian College, Archives and Special Collections). J. Ferdinand Jacobs, professor and financial agent of the college was “so adept at fundraising that he brought in enough subscriptions during the opening months of 1891 to underwrite the construction of the proposed first dormitory” which was completed by October of that year (Hammet, 14).
Kennedy, the father of four young children, “gave much of his small salary to help the struggling college,” according to a letter to Dr. Marshall Brown from Katharine Bean Graham, wife of PC Professor Bothwell Graham. J. W. Kennedy was the father of PC student Fronde Kennedy, class of 1896. Miss Kennedy later became the second Dean of Women at Duke University. Fronde received an Honorary Doctorate of literature from PC in 1924.
Kennedy’s presidency was ended by his sudden death at the age of 36 in February of 1891.