Skip to main content

Professor James Kimball King’s extraordinary impact goes far beyond the confines of traditional classroom walls and continues to reverberate through the profoundly fond memories of family, friends, former students, and the wider University community. In light of his exceptional legacy, a group of alumni are working together to create an endowed professorship in honor of Professor King, who passed away in 2019.

Prof. King imparted not only knowledge, but also inspired generations of learners with his passion for teaching. He had a unique commitment to fostering each student’s personal connection to art and literature. In fact, Prof. King “often started class with questions meant to draw out students’ individual reactions: What did you think about the reading? How did this passage make you feel? Does this character’s situation reflect your own?”

A Carolina Stories feature captured the genuine appeal of courses and conversations with Prof. King: “Students adored King for these moments of approachability, for his sincere interest in their literary tastes and for his insistence that great works of literature were created to fill human beings just like them with feelings that were worthy of deep exploration.”

Prof. King taught courses in the DOECL for 40 years, and each year, his courses were filled with students from a wide variety of disciplines. This was likely due to the common secret traded throughout the Tar Heel community: “Find out what class English professor Kimball King will teach next semester and enroll in it.”

Reflecting fondly on his time with Prof. King, John Townsend ‘77, ‘82 said, “He loved what he taught, and he wanted you to love what he taught too…He wasn’t there to figure out who should get an A and who should get a C. He wanted you to love great works of art, and he was very successful at that.”

Prof. King received a Tanner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching as well as two other teaching awards. Over the course of 25 summers, Prof. King took more than 1,000 students to study theatre in London. After retiring, he continued to teach at least one online drama course per semester for the UNC Friday Center.

Alongside his vibrant career as a teacher, Prof. King also made many crucial advancements in the studies of dramatic literature through his illuminating research and numerous publications. During his time in the DOECL, he authored and edited thirteen books, published nearly 100 articles, and delivered more than 40 talks on the subject. He also served as vice-chair on the Playmakers Advisory Board.

A group of former students are currently fundraising to create an endowed professorship in honor of Prof. King, who died in 2019. With additional gifts, the Dr. J. Kimball King Distinguished Professorship will support a faculty member whose teaching and scholarship cultivate appreciation of and deeper connection with literature.

Prof. King’s son Scott said that the movement to create an endowed professorship is the ideal way to honor his father.

“We would love to see his name live on in association with the University he devoted his life to, and he would be very proud of that as well,” he said. “He was very committed to teaching, and his hope was always that he could help people appreciate the range of great writing and drama and art out there in the world.”

To support King’s legacy of teaching excellence, make a gift to the Dr. J. Kimball King Distinguished Professorship Fund.

Comments are closed.