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The 2019 G. Jackson Burney Community Service Award Ceremony

by | Dec 2, 2019 | News

Missy and John Kuykendall, recipients of the 2019 Jack Burney Community Service Award (Bill Giduz photo)

On the Wednesday morning before Thanksgiving, the Town Hall board room was packed to standing room only to honor Missy and John Kuykendall as the 2019 recipients of the Jack Burney Community Service Award. As friends and family gathered, the Moravian Brass Band serenaded them with patriotic and popular tunes. Mayor Rusty Knox opened the festivities, and introduced Jack Burney’s son, Mike Burney. This was followed by the former town manager, Leamon Brice’s remembrances of his late friend, Jack Burney. Marguerite Williams presented the citation, describing the life and works of the Kuykendalls. Brice’s and Williams’ comments are printed at the end of this column.

Mike Burney, Jack Burney’s son, at the Burney Community Service Award (Bill Giduz photo)

The Kuykendalls were given a check by the town that they, in turn, presented to a nonprofit of their choice. The nonprofit they chose was the Ada Jenkins Center and its Executive Director, Georgia Krueger, received the check with gratitude to the Kuykendalls for all of their contributions to life in Davidson. The town also presented the Kuykendalls with a hand turned wooden vase to commemorate the day, created by former Davidson professor, David Kaylor, and made possible through the generosity of Evalyn and Van Crawford of the Wooden Stone.

The Reverend Peter Henry of Davidson College Presbyterian Church offered the benediction. Then guests enjoyed a light breakfast in the rotunda.

Remarks about Jack Burney by Leamon Brice:

“Welcome everyone. It is such a privilege for me to remember Jack today.

If you have attended this event in the past you have heard Jerry Hancock or Sam Maloney talk about Jack Burney. They have talked about how Jack worked for WBT,  the Charlotte Chamber, was a part of a shadow government during the cold war, played in jazz bands for spending money and the fact he started the WIMPS. Well, I hope today you will enjoy my perspective on Jack because my perspective is different. Yes, he started the WIMPS and you probably know that WIMPS stands for We Are Intent On Making Progress Slowly. I think the name was coined by Jerry Hancock but quickly adopted by Jack. It is an appropriate name for the group. For the most part it is a group of retired gentlemen. I think Jerry, Dennis Caudle and myself were the only members who were not retired during Jack’s time with the WIMPS. Jack started the WIMPS to talk about computers, but even Jack, could not keep the group on topic. They talked about everything. For me, a young 30 something, it was like sitting with an army of wisemen.

Jack prepared the WIMPS newsletter for each weekly meeting. It was always well thought out and laid out. It always had a photo of each member, a bio of new members and sometimes a bio of longtime members. It was filled with fun facts and useful information. All the WIMPS wanted to read the newsletter because it was informative or interesting or both and because Jack was likely to ask you a question about the content in this week’s edition. And if you did not know the answer, the ribbing could be severe. Jack was a prolific reader. He read current things, magazines and newspapers, so in addition to the newsletter each WIMP got a stack of magazine and newspaper clippings, especially clipped for that WIMP. Even when the group became so large we no longer fit around the table in the window of the Soda Shop and we had difficulty finding a place to meet, Jack knew the interest of each and every WIMP. In my case the clippings not only covered my interests, but the interests Jack wanted me to have. They always expanded my horizons and pushed me to discover something new.

I met Jack in my first week working in Davidson. He came into town hall and wanted to know when we could meet to discuss what we were going to do about the growth that was coming toward Davidson. Jack was always ahead of me that way. And for years Jack continued to push me or pull me depending on the need of the day. He pushed me to start a monthly town newsletter which we jointly put out for several years until the task was handed to another town staff member. Now it is the newsletter you get quarterly. He loved the latest technology and he pushed me to improve the towns computing capacity from the 28k computer we had when I arrived to a computer network and real accounting software. Jack seemed to always be there in my early years here. Constantly giving me guidance and sharing his wisdom. I could always count on Jack to be there and give good advice.

I recall being with Jack at his house in what we would now call his man cave. This room was filled with an electric keyboard, his HAM radio, a computer, a traditional radio, a printer and other things I cannot remember. It looked like the cockpit of a large airplane. While there, I asked him about some sort of computer issue that I do not recall and Jack’s response started something like; “Well, in 1492 Columbus used one forrrr” and quite a few minutes later he was not much closer to the answer. I was finally saved by Anne’s voice coming from the other room, “Jack.” “Yes, dear.” “He asked you what time it was not how to build a clock.” “yes, dear.” To say Jack was meticulous would be an understatement but that is also part of what made him special.

Jack was the planning board chair when I arrived in Davidson, and he and I were able to persuade the board to do what we now would call a Comprehensive plan. Jack of course led the process. The final plan contained a long list of things the people wanted Davidson to be and a list of action steps to achieve those things. Jack pushed me to prioritize the list and keep a meticulous record of everything that was accomplished. He reminded me every time I saw him to check the list. I believe that was Davidson’s first attempt at creating a vision for the community. The final plan was called the General Plan. Sounds grand right? Turns out. It was.

One of the action steps from the plan was to create a new land plan. The town board appointed a stakeholders group (which included then college president John Kuykendall) (one of this year’s Burney award recipients) and charged them with the task of creating the plan. Jack of course was asked to chair the stakeholders group. The result of more than a year of work was the Davidson Land Plan. A document many of you are probably not familiar with or maybe have never heard of. The Davidson Land Plan set the vision for Davidson and put into place a Davidson Planning ordinance, that allowed Davidson to grow, but in a way that kept the character of old Davidson. Thus, the new development, has become a part of what we all know and love about Davidson today. Concepts and practices from the Davidson Land Plan are still used here today and have been copied in some form in communities across the country. All this happened because of Jack. Sure, Tim Keane and I did a lot of the work, but it was under the guidance, and direction of Jack. During those years Jack worked tirelessly to help the town prepare for the growth that was coming. The effects of Jacks work for the town, continued after he left the planning board and in fact continues today. I can see them as I walk around town every day. If you pressed Jack he would tell you the story, but he would not claim any credit.

As time passed Jack began to bow out of things and spend time with Ann. I am still not sure if he decided I was going to be ok without him,   or if he gave up on me. I would like to think the former. Jack made a big difference in my life. He might admit he acted as a mentor to me, but he was much more than that. Jack took me under his wing and shared his wisdom with me much like you would a son or grandson. Any, success I may have enjoyed here in Davidson, was heavily influenced by Jack Burney.

In a September 1997 interview (2 years after the adoption of the Davidson Land Plan) Jack was asked what he thought his legacy would be. He proceeded to share these statements, and I quote:

“I doubt I will be written about in any decent publication of note.”

“I doubt my legacy will last long, if even more than a minute.”

“I don’t know if I changed anybody’s life. I may have but I don’t know it if I did.”

“My legacy is likely to be shallow.”

“I contributed much time in an effort to do what I thought  was a noble thing.”

Well, Jack, you changed my life and, Jack, your time changed Davidson forever and, Jack, your legacy is still alive.

Thank you.”

Citation written and presented by Marguerite Williams

“We are here on the happy occasion to celebrate and honor the lives of service of Missy and John Kuykendall. They have actually made Davidson their home twice during their married lives and, lucky for us, they stayed put the second time. But what led them to this small town and college and gave them the strong desire to give back to our community?

Nancy Adams Moore was born in Louisville, Kentucky. She was reared in Mobile, Alabama by Robert and Ann Moore. Following his service in WWII, Missy’s father worked at a radio station in Louisville. When Missy was in the third grade, the owner of that station opened a new radio station in Mobile. Robert moved the family in order manage it, and eventually it became a television station, putting him on the ground floor of a whole new industry. The oldest of three sisters, Missy was given her nickname from her daddy about three seconds after she was born, and it has been her name ever since.

Missy remembers her early years as being guided by wonderful parents who encouraged her in every way. They worked towards social justice, civil rights, peace, and equality in a state where fighting for those principles required tenacity and determination. Missy observed her parents’ extremely fair behavior, with involvement in causes that went against the grain of society at that time. Her mother worked to integrate the local YMCA, for which she faced disapproval from friends and neighbors. Her father was physically attacked when he supported the presidency of John F. Kennedy. So, our very own Missy Kuykendall was from a family of activist reformers.

Agnes Scott College beckoned to Missy, where she majored in French. She was head of the honor council and discovered her innate leadership skills, becoming determined to have a career and future that would make a difference. She has maintained a lifelong relationship with Agnes Scott, including serving on its Board of Trustees.

The fight for civil rights and equality became her personal mantra; while she taught French in a Richmond public high school, she witnessed children and families that society had left behind. When she and John lived in Auburn and their two sons were in kindergarten and first grade, Missy received her master’s degree in counseling and became interested in clinical psychology.

Employed by Auburn in Adult Education, Missy created programs in the area of humanities, developing Humanities weekends, working with the university’s departments of English, history, journalism, and religion. She went with teams to towns across Alabama to meet with local citizens, and together, they designed meaningful humanities programs for community participants. The famous author, Harper Lee, even joined in one such program. Missy found that she enjoyed bringing people together and helping them find common bonds and goals, a talent that she has used throughout her adult life.

John Wells Kuykendall was born at Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte, and he grew up on a dairy farm near Pineville. When John’s grandfather retired from the presidency of Queens College, he decided that the farming life was for him. He gave John’s parents a piece of land and a log cabin, and there John and his brother spent an idyllic youth planning adventures from their little loft bedroom; they roamed the woods and fields to their hearts’ content. John’s mother, Emily Frazer Kuykendall, taught Latin at Central High School, and later became its treasurer. John’s father, James Bell Kuykendall, was in the automotive parts business and then he worked in the first years of home air conditioning, becoming president of his national association. John’s Aunt Winnie also wielded an important influence over him during these years, and later, as well.

John recalls that his father was really a minister, just one without a seminary degree. His main engagement in life was the church and he was dedicated to doing what the church needed, serving as an elder many times. His father believed that the church and its ministry was his to protect. His father also loved Davidson College in the same way, taking the boys to ball games and introducing them to old Davidson friends, like John T Kimbrough.

After John graduated from Myers Park High School, where he was active in school government and played tennis, it was a foregone conclusion that John would attend Davidson. John’s father, two uncles, and brother Bill all came here. John’s father once told him, “Sure, you can go anywhere you want. But I’m only going to pay for you to go to Davidson.” John’s word for his undergraduate years is “magnificent.” It was a time of exploring new ideas, making fast friends, looking at important issues like social justice, and having fun.

On one fateful and fun spring break weekend of his sophomore year, John visited Mobile with friends. Missy was a senior in high school and one of the boys’ mothers invited over some girls for a picnic. Sure enough, Missy and John remembered each other when she was at Agnes Scott and came to Davidson for dance weekends. After graduating from Davidson in 1959, John attended Union Theological Seminary for one year, receiving a Bachelor of Divinity Degree. He then worked for the Davidson Alumni office for a year and the Dean of Students office for the next year.

During the year that John worked in the Dean’s office, Missy graduated from Agnes Scott. They married that summer of 1961 and had what they call a magical year to start off their married life.

Their adventure together saw them going from Davidson to Richmond, Yale, Auburn, Princeton, and back to Auburn. While in Richmond, they had a life-changing experience doing field work in Majestic, Kentucky, a small coal mining town. The shocking poverty there raised their consciousness to the fact that such places existed, where people suffered terrible deprivation, in a country of plenty. They decided that they would never turn away from such societal problems.

A year-long fellowship in Switzerland made them aware of the rewards of international understanding and relationships. They developed deep and lasting friendships. The family with whom they were placed is still dear to them. The Vietnam War and Civil Rights protests deeply influenced their first five years in Auburn, where they worked in a congregation that was open in its quest for social justice. It even housed the first Head Start Program in Alabama. That time taught both Missy and John how to positively express their beliefs, and stand up for them.

Another life-changing event occurred during their first years in Auburn. A driver hit them head-on, inflicting serious injury on the boys who were quite young at the time. All the physical wounds were healed, but Missy and John realized even more than ever that life was fragile and fleeting, that their children were, by far, the most precious things in their lives, and that they needed to make the most of the time they were given. And make the most of it, they have.

Along the way, John received his Master of Sacred Theology from Yale, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton. One way they celebrated life was to form a group of wonderful friends in graduate school that came together every Sunday in what they called, “the church house.” They had free-wheeling conversations about any topic imaginable, supporting and taking joy in each other.

After Princeton, Auburn called to them once again, and John became a professor of religion and campus pastor for the university. One year, he was named the outstanding teacher in the School of Arts and Sciences.

Then, thank goodness for all of us here today, Davidson came calling again, this time in 1984, when the Board of Trustees asked John to be its 15th president. In his inauguration speech in October of 1984, John said “I understand the charge that has been given to me this day as the charge to be of service, to this community and all who are involved in it; and, thereby to the world that it seeks to serve. I so accept, and I invite you to join me in the effort.”

For these thirty-five years, Missy and John have woven their lives into the fabric of town, giving us their time, talent, intellect and compassion.

John helped form the Town-College Committee, in which both institutions worked on issues important to them. It provided the exchange of ideas, fostering a unique partnership and providing creative solutions to mutual problems. John, Bob Sutton, and Bob Collins developed the idea that the town would benefit from a new neighborhood, and McConnell was born, serving town and college.

From 1994 to 1995, John was a member of the Land Plan Task Force, charged with changing the way Davidson planned for its future, protecting what was important to us and establishing new guidelines for growth. His faithful participation In the committee, and his leadership on it, elevated the seriousness of its work and enhanced its reputation.

For 18 months, during a period of transition at Davidson Presbyterian Church, John served as its moderator of Session. This time gave him the chance to meet new people and make deep friendships, for which he is grateful.

More recently, John has taught four different adult lifelong learning classes for DavidsonLearns. He has found this teaching to be filled with liberating conversations and good students, who are willing to learn and grow. John believes that this organization already has achieved significant importance to the Town, in only a few years of existence.

Missy readily established her own volunteer activities in town, quite apart from being the wife of the college president. Then mayor, Russell Knox, asked her to chair the community relations committee and she was determined to make the most of that opportunity. She wanted people who lived in town to have the chance to talk about the things that were important to them to save or change, because we knew that growth was coming our way. Missy realized that we needed to define for ourselves what we wanted to be. In the early 1990s, she persuaded Mayor Knox to create what they called the General Plan Committee. This group established meetings all across town for a year, asking big groups and small what they liked about Davidson, what they would change if they could, and what they hoped to protect at all costs.

Missy discovered that the answers were remarkably similar, no matter the neighborhood, age, or race of the participants. People wanted to protect our big trees, have new ways of getting to know each other, and have better means of getting around town by foot or bike. They wanted more housing that was affordable or moderately priced. They wanted our Main Street and Town Green to remain viable and have even more retail. Missy remembers that there was a “we-ness” about these discussions; that we all felt a part of the same town. Two years later, this General Plan paved the way and informed the work of the Land Plan Task Force.

Missy has served on numerous nonprofit boards, becoming a founding member of Ada Jenkins and the Davidson Housing Coalition, always bringing her ability to mediate among differences of opinion and seek consensus.

The early days of the Women’s Leadership Conference on campus benefitted from Missy’s help in establishing its goals. She volunteered in assertiveness training and sexual assault awareness for hall counselors, seeking the empowerment of women. She was a volunteer mediator for the court system in Charlotte, provided counseling in the practice of a local physician, and volunteered for Crisis Assistance in Charlotte and at Ada Jenkins. She has been an Elder on the Session at Davidson College Presbyterian Church and served on a Pastor Nominating Committee, among many other activities at the church.

We come together today to try to express, Missy and John, what you mean to us. You help us appreciate what a rich, diverse community Davidson has become. You remind us to take care of each other. You encourage us to see the best in one another and to never cease in our efforts to make this the place it should be. You tell us that life is precious and that we need to invest in the good things and people around us. For this, and so much more, you, as the 2019 recipients, embody the spirit and meaning of the G. Jackson Burney Community Service Award.

Thank you.”

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