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In Memoriam - Professor Sandy Kemp
Spanish Department, 1972-2000

Sandy Kemp
Professor Sandy Kemp

Davidson College Spanish Professor Lois A. "Sandy" Kemp died at age 73 on March 30 after suffering a stroke at her home the previous day. She spent 28 years on the faculty at Davidson skillfully teaching Spanish not only as a language, but also as a vehicle for better international relations.

She never married nor had children, but filled that space in her life with an extraordinary concern for the entire human family. She was memorialized as a true "witness for peace," who found many ways to pull disparate communities together in hopes of global justice.

A longtime member of the Shalom Sunday School class at Davidson United Methodist Church, she put her faith into action supporting protest movements against government oppression, particularly in Central America. In 1986 she and others in the group, "Witness for Peace," took a dangerous trip to Nicaragua to call for peace between the Contras and Sandanistas. She also worked peacefully in her local community, befriending new arrivals with genuine care, and donating time to human service agencies like Habitat for Humanity and a free medical clinic.

She lived simply and refused to waste her resources. She drove a decades-old VW "bug" because she never needed anything else, carried along a garbage bag to pick up trash during her exercise walks, and helped put nine nieces and nephews through college.

One admirer at her memorial service noted, "She chose a path of many obstacles, but few curves. In an admirable way she always knew who she was, where she was going, and why she was going there."

She used her position at Davidson to show students how faith and reason can work together for good, and exposed generations of Davidson students to the developing world. During summer vacations, she led groups of students on educational and service trips to Central America, and during the school year, she hosted representatives of Central American citizensŐ groups to campus to share their stories. She was active in promoting the goals and activities of the collegeŐs Dean Rusk Program in International Studies.

She was a sparkling conversationalist at the weekly Spanish table, and constantly clipped articles on world affairs from newspapers and magazines to pass along to students and colleagues. She regularly invited acquaintances to contribute school supplies to needy children in Central America, and personally organized collection and shipment of the boxes.

She and three sisters were born in the Portuguese colony of Angola, Africa, daughters of a father who served there as a Methodist missionary doctor. Kemp spent the first 18 years of her life in Angola, and developed a sense of social justice in part from recognizing how colonizers mistreated the native populace. Her early attempts to pronounce her full name, "Lois Ann," came out as "San," and that led to her lifelong nickname, "Sandy."

Home schooled in Africa, she was a cum laude graduate of Middlebury CollegeŐs Class of 1949. A class in U.S. Government fired her interest in political science, and led her to earn a masters degree in international relations at the University of Denver. She won a Fulbright Fellowship to study at the University of Louvain in Belgium in 1951-52, and ended up spending five years in Europe as a student and as a secretary and translator in the US Air Force civil service in Germany and Spain. She returned to the states to earn a masterŐs degree in Spanish from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and taught Spanish at DePauw University, Ohio Wesleyn University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison before coming to Davidson in 1972. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin that same year.

She was hired into the position of department chair, and was the first female faculty member to hold that responsibility at Davidson. She served as head of the department until 1983. She initiated DavidsonŐs semester in Spain program and served as its resident director ten times between 1975 and 1991. She also chaired the collegeŐs committee on international education from 1974-1981.

She taught classes in Spanish language and civilization, and Spanish literature of the 19th and 20th centuries. She loved theatre and documentary film, and published several articles in professional journals, most of which built on her Ph.D. dissertation about the 20th century novelist Max Aub.

She worked throughout her career to raise the standards for foreign language instruction at Davidson through curriculum revision, standardized testing for majors, and outside evaluation. In 1981 she helped initiate DavidsonŐs ongoing program of using advanced language students as assistant teachers in foreign language instruction.

She is survived by three sisters and nine nieces and nephews. Memorials may be made to the Kemp Scholarship Fund, Davidson United Methodist Church, PO Box 718, Davidson NC 28036; and Our Towns Habitat, PO Box 1088, Davidson.

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