Biographical / Historical
Raymond Asa Kent, ninth president of the University of Louisville (1929-1943), was born in Plymouth, Iowa, on July 21, 1883 to Thomas Oliver and Ellen Stevens Kent. He earned an A.B. from Cornell College (Mt. Vernon, Iowa) in 1903, and a M.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1910 and 1917, respectively.
He began his career in education as principal of graded education in Fountain, Minnesota, in 1904 and served as superintendent of schools in two districts in Minnesota, before becoming an instructor of mathematics at State Normal School, Winona, Minnesota in 1909. Two years later, he became superintendent of schools in Winona, and two years after that, he became secretary of the Minnesota State Education Commission. In 1914 he became the principal of University High School and an assistant professor of education at the University of Minnesota. He moved on to become the superintendent of schools in Lawrence and professor of education at the University of Kansas in 1916, and in 1921 was named dean of that school of education and director of the summer session. His last appointment before coming to the University of Louisville was as dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Northwestern University, from 1923 to 1929. He served as president of the University of Louisville from 1929 until his sudden death in February 1943.
Kent is highly regarded as the president that improved educational standards at the university. Working with the deans, he encouraged each academic division to become fully accredited. He established night extension courses, the Division of Social Administration (later renamed the Kent School of Social Work), and the Louisville Municipal College for Negroes. He was supportive of the arts, establishing the School of Music and the development of a Fine Arts Department. He also developed a united administration and a retirement plan for the faculty. A strong supporter of academic freedom, his philosophy was, "We teach students to think, not what to think." A recognized scholar in the field of education, Kent was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Delta Kappa. He was also active in many professional organizations.
Active in the Louisville community, Kent was a president of the Rotary Club, a member of the Arts Club, the Pendennis Club, the University Club, and the Big Springs Golf Club. He served on the Executive Committee of the American Printing House for the Blind, the Kentucky Emergency Relief Commission, and the State Liquor Control Board, as well as national and international boards.
Kent married Frances Stanton Morey (1886-1964), of Winona, Minnesota, in 1911 and they had three children, Charles Stanton, Constance Frances, and Roger Betts. Kent was found dead of a heart attack aboard a train returning from Washington, D.C., on February 26, 1943.