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Eulogy Virtues of Dr. Anna Dale Kek ’28 and Mr. Evan Kek ’30

by Michael G. Cartwright with Joseph Krall ’16
Vice President for University Mission

This semester we are exploring exemplars of the University’s mission.

In his book, The Road to Character (2015) David Brooks explored the importance of two sets of virtues. “The skills you bring to the marketplace,” he dubs the “résumé virtues.” Then, Brooks says, “there are the ones that are talked about at your funeral. . . . Were you capable of deep love?” Questions like this point to what Brooks calls the “eulogy virtues.”

Both kinds of excellence are important, Brooks is careful to say. We need the encouragement and inspiration that come from the storied lives of peers who help us name expectations for what it is possible to be and to do. Without such exemplars, we lack the vocabulary we need to describe moral formation in the richest senses even if we have no problems touting forms of excellence to go on our résumés.

As the first segment of our mission statement makes explicit, the University of Indianapolis seeks “to prepare its graduates for effective, responsible, and articulate membership in the complex societies in which they live and serve; for excellence and leadership in their personal and professional lives. . . .”

From what I gather no one associated with our university was present when Anna Dale Kek ‘28 died in 2010 at the age of 103 years old. The funeral took place in Florida, and by that time Anna had outlived all of her colleagues from the days when she taught at Indiana Central. That is unfortunate because it turns out that there is quite a story to be told about Dr. Kek and her husband Evan R. Kek ’30. With that in mind, this first Mission Matters of the 2017-2018 academic year is devoted to singing the praises of this remarkably generous pair. Let’s begin with the obituary of record published for Dr. Kek.

Anna D. Kek, age 103, of Venice passed away on July 12, 2010. Ms. Kek was born in and grew up in Indiana. She was a member of the Venice Presbyterian Church. Ms. Kek was the president of the Venice Chapter of the AAUW (American Association of University Women) and was also the Dean of Admissions at Davis & Elkins College in West Virginia. Her late husband, Evan R. Kek was a professor at Davis & Elkins College in West Virginia and she and Mr. Kek enjoyed summers traveling in Europe together. Ms. Kek played a major role in the renovation the Fellowship Hall and the kitchen at the Venice Presbyterian Church and Ms. Kek was a moderator of the Women’s Group at the Venice Presbyterian Church. A graveside service will be held . . . at the time her ashes are interred at the Venice Presbyterian Church’s Memorial Garden.

This summary reflects the communities of memory in which Dr. Kek participated during the last two decades of her remarkable life: Davis & Elkins College, Venice Presbyterian Church, and the American Association of University Women. No mention of her alma mater.

Since very few people at UIndy in the 21st century know who the Keks were, I am also going to offer summaries of their resumes, both of which are important to the history of our institution. Then I will share two brief testimonies to the remarkable generosity that Anna and Evan practiced throughout their lives. In fact, some would say that if it weren’t for what Evan and Anna did during the 25 years that they worked for the university (1930-1955), we might not be here today.

Anna Dale Kek ’28 (1907-2010), Registrar, Professor of Languages, and Department Chairperson of Languages, graduated summa cum laude from Indiana Central College. Her majors were Latin, English and Speech. She was hired the same year as secretary to President Good, and became registrar in 1930, the same year she began teaching in the department of Classical and Modern Languages. Anna Kek received a M.A. in Latin from Indiana University in 1935, and studied in the American Academy in Rome during the summer of 1938. In 1940, she was awarded a doctorate Cornell University, thereby become the first alumna of Indiana Central to earn a Ph.D. Her dissertation, “Oportere, debere, convenire, decere, niecesse esse, opus esse and usus esse in republican Latin,” was in linguistics and Latin grammar. She chaired the Language and Literature Division at Indiana Central starting in 1944 and taught Latin, Greek, and German while also serving as registrar at different times. President Esch often reminded people that Dr. Kek played a key role in preparing for full accreditation (granted in 1947). Reflector articles and alumni remembrances indicate that she directed multiple campus plays while teaching at Indiana Central.

Evan R. Kek ‘30 (1909-1993), treasurer and history professor, graduated magna cum laude from Indiana Central College with a degree in history. Upon graduation in 1930, Mr. Kek started as assistant treasurer at Indiana Central and was promoted to treasurer/business manager the following year. (The only training Kek had received in finance was that he had managed the college bookstore.) In 1930, he and Anna Dale ’28, registrar and faculty member, were married. He was a part-time faculty member, teaching history and economics, and received a master’s degree in history from Indiana University.

Evan Kek’s fiscal prudence as treasurer of ICC is legendary. He delayed payments, at times accepted payments in kind, and borrowed money on his own security to pay the salaries of faculty. Frederick Hill writes of an occasion in the Depression where Mr. Kek “economized by purchasing a truckload of turnips from a farmer at a bargain price. Alumni were still complaining about the turnips decades later. Kek himself described the turnip purchase as the worst mistake he made during more than two decades as treasurer.”

The story about the turnips has taken on a life of its own, often told alongside the stories about the supposed occasion(s) when a student brought a bushel of turnips to Kek in the hope that ICC’s treasurer would accept farm produce in lieu of a payment for tuition. This was probably never a regular practice. Kek did admit that he once accepted a side of beef in lieu of a portion of the salary owed to him.   What we also know — without a doubt — to be true is that Evan Kek chaired the three-person “administrative committee” during the 1944-45 academic year after President Good had left in June 1944 and before President Esch arrived in March 1945. No one alive today can say how close ICC came to closing during that nine-month period. We can all be grateful for Evan Kek’s wise stewardship of a very difficult circumstance. Years alter, President Esch recalled that when he took over there were ten faculty – including Evan and Anna — and 140 students, just barely enough to continue, but they did.

The Eulogy Virtues of Anna Dale and Evan Kek 
One of the reasons why our collective memory of the Keks is not as vivid as it might be is because the Keks did not retire from Indiana Central University. After more than 25 years of service, in 1955, the Keks left Indiana Central to travel in Europe for a year. An announcement of their departure mentions the hope that the time away would restore their health. At the time of their departure, an article about the two of them noted that as a teacher Dr. Kek was “unsurpassed.” One of the people who worked in the business manager’s office recalled that during times of turmoil, the genial Mr. Kek had the ability to restore calm and smooth operations.

In 1956, the Keks accepted positions at Presbyterian-supported Davis & Elkins College in West Virginia, where Dr. Anna Dale Kek joined the Department of Languages and also served as registrar for several years. During this period of her life, she became a member of the American Association of University Women. Consistent with the mission and purpose of AAUW, Dr. Kek was an advocate for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research.

She retired in 1972 from Davis & Elkins with professor emeritus status, having served as chair of the Department of Languages. In 1982, the West Virginia Region of AAUW established a $100,000 Fellowship in her honor (about the time that she and her husband relocated to Florida).

Dr. Kek stayed active in Elkins for the first ten years of retirement.  She served as the coordinator of the Randolph County “Meals on Wheels” and wrote the Randolph County Profile for the Elkins chapter of the American Association of University Women (1976).

It would not be appropriate to cite specifics related to the donations that Evan and Anna made to their alma mater except to say that they contributed to the 50th anniversary class gift, etc. I am pleased to report that our university did honor Dr. Kek in 1987, when she was named Distinguished Alumnus in recognition for her six decades of “professional dedication to student welfare” exemplifying her alma mater’s motto of “Education for Service.”

We rightly remember Dr. Anna Dale Kek ’28 and Mr. Evan Kek ’30 for their remarkable generosity, which they displayed in such diverse ways that today it is difficult to bring it into focus. I have uncovered a couple of stories, however, that I recount as corroborating witnesses of people who have sung the praises of the Keks on other occasions.

The Witness of Linda Reddix Rodebaugh ’74 and Her Family  
Dorothy and Lloyd Reddix have not forgotten the Keks, who had no children of their own, but often helped students in very practical ways. During the Depression years, the Keks often took no salary. Our colleague Linda Rodebaugh’s mother Dorothy recalls, “They were very good to students as it was hard times and many had nothing.” Linda says:

My dad, Lloyd Reddix, attended Indiana Central College beginning April 1946 on the G.I. bill.  He had been stationed at the naval base in Corpus Christi, Texas during World War II. My parents met there. My mom, Dorothy Baylor (Reddix) came to Indianapolis that summer and they were married that August at University Heights EUB church.

While my dad was a student, my parents lived on Otterbein Avenue with Anna Dale Kek’s mother. . . . My parents answered an ad on a sign that a couple was wanted to live with her until they graduated. The house was small but adequate. My parents had one bedroom and all shared the one bathroom. My parents were given “kitchen privileges” as part of the arrangement. Anna and Evan Kek ate supper there every evening and my parents could then use the kitchen after the Keks were done eating.
What is striking about this example is its down to earth practicality. No doubt this arrangement was uncomfortable at times, but sharing space made it possible for the Keks to meet the needs of their extended family while helping an ICC student to complete his education by providing a place for him and his wife to live.

The Witness of Gail Lewis Tubbs, Davis & Elkins Class of ‘60 
Earlier this year, I met Carol Schuler who once served as the development officer at Davis & Elkins College. As it happens, I met Carol shortly after I heard Linda Rodebaugh tell the story about her parents. I mentioned the Keks, wondering if Carol knew them.  She smiled and began telling me the story of how the Keks had helped students at Davis & Elkins College. She put me in touch with Dr. Gail Tubbs (Class of 1960), a retired professor of education who taught at Washington University and Wesleyan University.

Gail Lewis Tubbs recalls her time as a student at Davis & Elkins College as “life-changing.”  She says, “I will always be grateful, especially to [Mr. Evan Kek] who made it possible for me.”

When I was preparing to return to D&E for my junior year, my father lost his job. Despite his efforts to secure the funds for me to return, he simply wasn’t able to do so. I remember the night he had to tell me, at the last minute, that I would not be able to go back. I was devastated, and it was very hard on him.

Due to leave the next morning, I went to the telephone and called Evan Kek, [who I thought was] the College registrar, and told him that I was not able to return due to our circumstances. He listened patiently and then asked if he could call me back. After a few minutes, the phone rang.

It was Mr. Kek. “Can you get here?” he asked. I conferred with my father and told him, “Yes.” So the next day, we made the drive to Elkins. When I arrived on campus, we met in Mr. Kek’s office in Liberal Arts Hall and went over the plans to see me through the year. He had been able to put together a package of scholarships, student loans and work assignments that got me within $50. Of course, I didn’t have it.

Then, in a moment of incredible kindness and compassion, Mr. Kek said, “Well, we have no children of our own,” and he wrote a check for the last $50.

Gail Tubbs recalls that she had been accepted at a number of other colleges but I don’t know that any of them would have provided the financial and human help that came to me that year. . . . Davis & Elkins College started me on an educational path but, more than that, it taught me just how far-reaching a single act of kindness and generosity can be.

Several years ago, Davis & Elkins used Gail’s witness to the generosity of Evan Kek as an appeal for the annual fund. “Every day a student worries about the future and if he or she will be able to continue at D&E and, every day, someone makes a gift to The D&E Fund to ensure that the answer for that student, just as it was for me, is yes!”

Gail Lewis Tubbs encouraged her fellow Davis & Elkins alumni to be the person who – like Evan Kek – “has a caring heart and a willing spirit, and who helps aspiring students today.” When Carol put me in touch with her, Gail responded: “When I told you ‘my’ story, I always hoped that somehow Evan Kek’s kindness would be recognized. It’s extraordinary to think that you’ve met someone who might be interested in helping to do that.”

There are more stories to be told . . .   
Gail Lewis Tubbs and I marvel at the prospect that we know parts of the story of generosity associated with the names of Evan and Anna Kek. Neither of us would claim to know the whole story of Anna and Evan Kek. This may be one of those instances where the key to learning “the rest of the story” is to pay attention to those “resume virtues” which, oddly enough, could turn out to be the index to what Brooks calls the “eulogy virtues.” Generosity always has a context. Beneficiaries often do remember the people who made a difference in their lives. And sometimes we make memorial gifts when they die or in some instances while they are yet alive.

At the time of her retirement, her colleagues at Davis & Elkins established a fellowship in Dr. Kek’s name at the American Association of University Women (AAUW). Subsequently, she invested some of her own personal funds in this fellowship. AAUW’s Sarah Dunn explained that the fellowship was first opened in 1982-83. “There are scholars who are still receiving money from her fellowship today.”

Anna Dale Kek may or may not be the longest-lived alumnus, but she is the first Indiana Central alumna to complete a PhD. Given her long life, it is quite possible that there is even more to be discovered about Dr. Anna Dale Kek and her husband Evan. For example, our recently retired colleague, Jim Ream and I have often marveled how Indiana Central College managed to stage plays during the Depression. Part of the answer is that Dr. Anna Dale Kek simply made it happen despite financial constraints. She may not have been very gifted as a dramatic director, but she made sure that the students at Indiana Central had opportunities to act in theatre.

If you pay a visit to the Frederick D. Hill Archives on the third floor of Krannert Memorial Library, you will find a few artifacts that also could be indices to still more stories of generosity.

  • Dr. Anna Dale Kek addressed the Faculty Staff Institute in September 1952. The typed text of “Our College Objectives” displays traces of her intellect: wide-ranging curiosity, precise about wording and just a bit pedantic.
  • Another document, titled, “A Study of the Testing Program and Scholarship of Indiana Central College Students, 1937 to 1941” uses the template provided by the American Council on Education to assess student learning.

This latter document may be part of the set of materials that were submitted as part of the collective effort of Indiana Central’s faculty and administration to gain accreditation. Even if the document was not used for that purpose, it is an example of the kind of painstaking labor that Dr. Anna Dale Kek and her colleagues were doing all that they could to put Indiana Central in a position to receive accreditation from the North Central Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities.

It is not uncommon when someone dies for people to pay their respects in various ways. Sometimes we attend the viewing or participate in a wake for the dead. And some of us give memorial gifts in recognition of the ways that our lives are better for having known the deceased. I never met Dr. Anna Dale Kek and Mr. Evan Kek. But I know that, directly and indirectly, I am a beneficiary of their generosity. I invite you to join me in making a gift in their honor to UIndy, or if you prefer to the American Association of University Women fellowship that was created in honor of Dr. Anna Dale Kek ‘28.

The focus of next month’s Mission Matters piece will be Dr. Kate Ratliff, who served as the founding director of the university’s counseling center and taught psychology from 1985 to 1990.  That article will discuss Dr. Ratliff ‘s life and work in the context of our University’s mission to equip students “to cultivate rationality and tolerance for ambiguity.”

If you know of someone (currently employed at UIndy or retired) who you think illustrates a facet of UIndy’s mission statement, please pass that information along to me and I will take it into consideration as I write the remaining six mission matters texts for this year. Please keep in mind that I am looking for exemplars who illustrate particular segments of the UIndy mission statement in their lives and work. In this case, Anna Dale Kek and Evan R. Kek clearly exhibited “excellence and leadership in their personal and professional lives” in remarkable ways.

Thanks for taking the time to reflect with me.  
Remember: UIndy’s mission matters!