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Joseph Whitner Kennedy, 1888-1890

Joseph Whitner Kennedy June 6, 1854 - February 22, 1891
Joseph Whitner Kennedy
June 6, 1854 – February 22, 1891

Joseph Whitner Kennedy, who had briefly attended Davidson College, became the Presbyterian College’s third president in 1888. Raised in Williamston, Anderson County, South Carolina, Kennedy had been a teacher 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, the college was re-chartered as the Presbyterian College of South Carolina in 1890, the curriculum was modernized, and the college received sixteen acres across 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, Spirit of PC, 12). In 1891, the college had been in operation only ten years, thus alumni numbers were limited to approximately twenty-three graduates (Registrar’s Book of Graduates, Presbyterian College, Archives and Special Collections).

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 Prof. 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.