INSIDE Chico State
0 March 13, 2003
Volume 33 Number 12
  A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
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Remembering Former President
Glenn Kendall

Glenn Kendall, 1901–2003, served as president of Chico State College from 1950 to 1966.

Glenn Kendall, 1901–2003, served as president of Chico State College from 1950 to 1966.

Glenn Kendall came to what was then Chico State College in 1950 and was president until 1966, when he retired. He came with a two-fold mission: to make Chico State a truly regional college that responded to the needs of its citizens and to move Chico State from being primarily a teacher-training school to a more broadly based institution.

The first thing the new president did was drive all over the North State to talk with community leaders, government officials, business people, and everyday citizens. He wanted to know what they wanted from their regional college. CSU, Chico is the university it is today in large part because of Kendall.

The son of a Methodist minister, Kendall was born in 1901 in Tennessee. When he was ready to enter high school, his family moved to Kentucky, where he graduated from high school and then received a B.A. from Western Kentucky College and a master’s degree from the University of Kentucky. He started teaching in a rural high school even before he finished his bachelor’s degree.

Kendall spent four years as the principal of a small high school and then was asked to be a school principal in Louisville. He was invited by the superintendent to be on a statewide committee that was meeting at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. It was the first of many broadening experiences for Kendall. He recalled a meeting of that group in which the university president told an excited committee member, “Sit down, son. It’s an unwritten rule. We always sit in this room. If you sit down, you can always take back what you said. If you stand, it’s a different matter.”

After four years in Louisville, Kendall took a job in a town created by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Norris, Kentucky. Most people recognize the TVA as a power project, but few remember that it also was an experiment in social development. Proposed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, it was designed to serve the poor of the region and to improve the quality of life for everyone. Kendall was superintendent of education for a school system that was to be experimental and progressive. Kendall organized a participatory school board to help in the planning.

After Norris, Kendall received a scholarship to Columbia University’s graduate program. He received what he called a “wonderful education from the most prominent educators and scholars of the time.” Among them was William Heard Kilpatrick, an American philosophy teacher and author of Education for a Changing Civilization. The program provided an opportunity, unique at the time, to direct his own education. He could go to any class, lecture, or seminar at either Columbia or another university for one-half of his course work. He used the time to talk at length with the best teachers, talk with other doctoral candidates about the gamut of topics related to education and society, and take very few classes. “I experienced the essence of true education: self-directed and self-motivated, with an abundance of great teachers and resources,” said Kendall.

Dr. Glenn Kendall, 1950

Dr. Glenn Kendall, 1950

Kendall, his wife, Susan, and their three children, Glenn, Jr., Marjorie, and Fred, moved to Chico in 1950 when Kendall accepted the position of president of Chico State. All three of the children graduated from the college. A new faculty member and his family always received a visit from the Kendalls, who arrived with a basked filled with produce from their garden. The couple were known for being warm, gracious, and down-to-earth.

One of the first things Kendall did at Chico State was to reconstitute the university advisory board. Kendall called together the advisory board from throughout the region and listened to the members describe what was important to them and their various communities.

During the early 1950s, programs in agriculture, social welfare, engineering (there was one engineering professor in 1950), and nursing were developed. Each was derived from a close examination of what was needed by the people of Northern California. “If it was an important need, I believed we should meet it,” said Kendall. This belief came from the first part of his educational philosophy: “Help people do better the desirable things they do.” The second part, “To reveal higher things in life and make them both desirable and possible,” speaks to his belief in every liberal arts program. “Each one, whether it is literature, music, drama, or philosophy, reveals the higher things in life,” offered Kendall. Both parts are necessary to a full university and a complete education. This was his vision for what was to become CSU, Chico.

Kathleen McPartland
Adapted from an article that appeared in Inside Chico State in Nov. 1996.

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