Distinguished Professorship in Literature to Honor Professor

Students competed for a spot in Dr. J. Kimball King’s classes throughout his 40-year tenure at UNC. (Photo: UNC)

A group of alumni has initiated a fundraising campaign to establish a professorship that honors the late Kimball King, UNC professor emeritus of English.

The Dr. J. Kimball King Distinguished Professorship in the department of English and comparative literature will support a faculty member whose teaching and scholarship foster an appreciation for literature. The campaign’s goal is to fund the professorship with $2.5 million in private gifts.

King’s research and publications focused on dramatic literature. He also led summer trips to London with former School of Education Professor Gerald Unks to have students study British culture and theater. Students competed for a spot in King’s classes throughout his 40-year tenure at UNC. King died in 2019.

Board of Trustees Chair John Preyer ’90 initially resisted recommendations to take King’s class on 20th-century British theater as he had no use for it. “My friend said, ‘Just trust me, you’re going to love him.’ The class was full by the time I registered, but Kimball ended up making a spot for me — and that changed my life,” Preyer told University Communications.

King’s teaching style included lively discussions, during which students were encouraged to create a personal connection with class readings, according to an article in the Review. (See “Tennessee Williams Expert Offers Perspective for Trip, Lecture Series,” January/February 1999 Review.) He was described as using nontraditional teaching methods such as showing films based on short stories in addition to having students read the story.

“He keeps his classes light and humorous while still getting his point across,” James Kennedy ’99 told the Review in 1999. “Not many teachers can do both at the same time.”

King received three teaching awards during his time at the University and continued to teach online drama classes for the Friday Center after his retirement. He also led various lifelong learning lecture series with Carolina Alumni and offered guided tours for alumni at the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival in New Orleans for many years.

“Dr. King was a true UNC treasure,” Perrin Jones ’94, one of King’s former students and current member of the Board of Trustees told UNC Communications. “The impact he had on students over such a long period of time is remarkable.”

Scott King, Kimball King’s son, said the distinguished professorship would be a fitting honor for his father, allowing his name to live on in association with the University he devoted his life to. He added he hopes this professorship will help people appreciate the world of writing, drama and art.

— Cameron Hayes Fardy ’23

If you’d like to make a contribution to The Dr. J Kimball King Distinguished Professorship Fund you can do so at

Share via: