By Tina Hahn, July 2013
Harold Kendis, Jr., a 22-year-old in his fifth year at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), was on his way to a promising teaching career when cancer took his life. His parents, Harold and Daphne, considered starting a scholarship fund to help doctoral students become English professors as a tribute to their son.
Time passed, and after her husband’s death in 2000, Daphne Davis Kendis moved from Los Angeles to Meridian, Miss., to be near her younger sister. Residing in Mississippi brought to mind thoughts of her son’s love of English as well as her favorite author William Faulkner.
Kendis, who passed away in 2010, left an estate gift of $946,000 to the University of Mississippi to establish an endowment in her son’s name, with the annual income assisting doctoral students pursuing studies in English literature and literary criticism. UM was chosen because of the academic reputation of its Department of English as well as for the university’s management of Rowan Oak, Faulkner’s home and a National Historic Landmark and National Literary Landmark.
“Harold loved literature and being with the teachers who taught it,” said maternal aunt Gloria Mazingo of Meridian. “Once when one of his UCLA professors had to be away, she asked him to teach her class. Daphne said it made him so happy. She said Harold just glowed.”
Ivo Kamps, chair of the UM Department of English, called the gift “an incredibly generous gesture that will soon bring fellowship support to ten Ph.D. students in our program. We’re enormously grateful to the Kendis family for fostering a new generation of scholars and teachers of literature.”
Daphne Davis, a native of Butler, Alabama, and Harold Kendis, Sr. of Omaha, Nebraska, met while serving in the U.S. Army. She was in the Women’s Army Corps, and he rose to the rank of a lieutenant colonel. When their son was born in an Army hospital, they affectionately called him “G.I.” for government issue – a nickname he was called most of his life, said Mazingo.
Harold Kendis, Sr. was a lawyer in Los Angeles, while Daphne Kendis enjoyed a long career in banking. In talking about her sister’s gift to Ole Miss, Mazingo spoke of her sister’s generosity, values and hobbies.
“Daphne was very intelligent and so outgoing and had such a strong work ethic,” said Mazingo. “She was a master at hand work and could weave, sew, knit, crochet and many other things. When she moved to Meridian, she gave many of her handmade afghans to people in her retirement home and to veterans. She read two to three books a week. I would take the books back to the library and pick up another batch that she had reserved. She always wanted to visit Rowan Oak but we were never able to make the trip.
“Daphne was a fine sister and a very generous individual,” said Mazingo, who also shared three other siblings with her—Kitty Williams and Kathryn Dozier of Butler and the late Robert Davis Jr. “Daphne loved California but also appreciated life in Mississippi. She used to say that she knew when she got to the South because people opened doors for her.”
Recipients of the Kendis Fellowships will be graduate students whose professional goal is to teach on the university level in the United States. Both academic excellence and financial need will be considered but academic excellence will take precedence over need. The fellowship “is intended to assist the recipients in becoming outstanding professors of English Literature,” according to the memorandum of agreement. A committee of English department faculty members will determine the selection.
The Harold J. Kendis, Jr. Fellowship Endowment is open to receive gifts from individuals and organizations. Those who wish to contribute can send a check with the fund noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, P.O. Box 249, University, Miss. 38677; contact Denson Hollis, director of development for the College of Liberal Arts at 662-915-5092 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit www.umfoundation.com/makeagift.