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John W. Kuykendall Award for Community Service:
Charles Allen Summers '72

Charles Allen Summers '72

A noted writer once said: "A life of reaction is a life of slavery, intellectually and spiritually. One must fight for a life of action, not reaction." Charlie Summers has fought for "a life of action," a life in which he has revived churches and transformed lives.

Charlie Summers aspired at a young age to serve his community as a minister. As a student at Davidson he was a member of the Religious Life Committee, exhibiting his interest in ministering to others on the Residence Hall Council and in his fraternity, ATO. Like his father before him, he attended seminary following his graduation from Davidson. In 1976, after finishing Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, he was ordained at 6th Presbyterian Church, an interracial middle-class church in Washington, D.C., where he began what would be a life-long commitment to breaking down racial and socioeconomic barriers in the churches where he served.

As Chaplain at Davidson College in the early '80s, "Charlie Chaplain" focused on involving students in community service and teaching them how working with and for others related to their faith. Charlie contributed to the community at large by chairing the Presbytery's Peacemaking Committee and serving on the Social Justice and Peacemaking Committee for the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. He demonstrated his commitment to non-violent resistance by participating in a Witness for Peace trip to Nicaragua. About this trip, he said, "I am a citizen of the world. I have a responsibility to work for peace between nations and races." Charlie epitomizes the understanding that his community is larger than just his neighborhood.

In 1987 he left Davidson to become pastor of Seigle Avenue Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, an inner city church located across the street from the oldest low-income housing project in Charlotte, Piedmont Courts. The small congregation of 50 was looking for someone to revive their church, and they found that person in Charlie Summers. Over the next thirteen years not only did the congregation grow to nearly 400 members, but also the church became a place where God's children from all walks of life could worship under the same roof. He started the Jacob's Ladder program, which he called "an executive placement service for low income people" as well as a counseling center, through which alcoholics, drug addicts, AIDS sufferers, teen parents, and countless others found solace in his open, wise, and compassionate words.

He exhibited the unique ability to connect with people and lead them simultaneously. On Sundays, worshipers felt welcome by Charlie, who sang and swayed along with the gospel choir and spoke eloquently about matters that touched all hearts. And yet, despite hi consistently successful work, Charlie Summers remains humble about his influence on his community.

Because of your commitment to justice, peace, and friendship in your community; because you have an uncommon awareness of the challenges of human relations and an equally uncommon refusal to submit to those challenges; because in your good works you are never self-righteous or judgmental; because in lives and places of great despair, your optimism seems boundless, your smile and humor never fades, and others find hope; because the whole work of your life demonstrates leadership through servanthood; and because you positively affect every life you touch, the Davidson College Alumni Association honors you, Charles Allen Summers, Class of 1972, and presents you with the John W. Kuykendall Award for Community Service on the occasion of the thirtieth reunion of your class.

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