Campus wide, College of Humanities & Social Sciences, Faculty

New dean carries on family legacy

By Jenna Johnson | July 29, 2021
John Kuykendall Charleston Southern University
Dr. John Kuykendall, the new dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, has served the university for 18 years. The gown he wears at graduation belonged to his great-grandfather and was worn by his father, both who served in higher education. Photo by Richard Esposito

Dr. John Edward Kuykendall has been named dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Charleston Southern University. He has served the university for 18 years, first joining the CSU faculty as an assistant professor of history and, most recently, as the interim dean for the college.

John Kuykendall

“I am absolutely confident in Dr. Kuykendall’s leadership abilities and his skill in navigating the many different disciplines that compose the College of Humanities and Social Sciences,” Dr. Jacqueline Fish, vice president of academic affairs, said. “His willingness to assume the responsibilities of leading the college speaks volumes of his commitment to the students, faculty, and staff of our university.”

For nearly two decades Kuykendall has enjoyed the opportunity to live out his calling as a teacher of history. His research interests focus on the changing relationship between war and popular culture in 20th-century Europe, though the history buff enjoys studying and teaching on a wide range of topics.

The label sewn into the back of Dr. John Kuykendall’s commencement gown reflects the name of Kuykendall’s father, who wore it in his 38 years of college teaching, as well as his great-grandfather, who originally owned the gown. Photo provided

“Historians study the growth and interaction of diverse worldviews,” said Kuykendall. “It is natural for me to see a direct connection between my discipline and my faith since the story of Western civilization is in large part the story of the development of the Christian worldview. The study of the past is presented to my students as the story of God’s sovereignty over human life. History is no accident—it is the working out of God’s will for His own glory with an ultimate outcome in which all Christians will rejoice.”

A native of South Carolina, Kuykendall was born into a family with generational connections to higher education. The academic gown he wears at CSU’s commencement ceremonies first belonged to his great-grandfather, a former president of Queens College (now university) in Charlotte from 1921-1939. The label sewn into the back also reflects the name of Kuykendall’s father, who wore it in his 38 years of college teaching.

“It is an antique, an heirloom, and, in a way, a reminder of my debt to generations of teachers and my responsibilities to generations of students,” he said of the gown.

Lineage does not determine a vocation, but it may point toward aptitude for a career. His homegrown experiences may have led Kuykendall to value a life of learning, but it did not immediately incline him to follow in his father’s (or great-grandfather’s) footsteps. Instead, a combination of circumstances as an undergraduate gave him a profound sense of God’s call to teach at the college level. Kuykendall earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Erskine College followed by an MA and PhD from the University of South Carolina.  

Kuykendall and his wife, Mary, live in Goose Creek with their two sons.

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