Deborah D. Kendig, Howard school board member, 55

January 04, 1998|By Christian Ewell and Craig Timberg | Christian Ewell and Craig Timberg,SUN STAFF

Deborah D. Kendig, who served 12 years on the Howard County school board, died at home Friday after a lengthy battle with ovarian cancer. She was 55.

"Debbie has taught us a great deal about dignity and courage in the last five years of her life. And she had taught us earlier about wisdom and intelligence," said Susan R. Buswell, a former Howard County school board member who was executive director of the Maryland Association of Boards of Education when Ms. Kendig was president.

From 1983 to 1994, Ms. Kendig helped take the county to a position among the nation's elite school systems.

A lasting symbol of her impact on the school system is the $1.2 million Jim Rouse Theatre for the Performing Arts, which opened on the site of the former Wilde Lake High School last February. Ms. Kendig, who grew up in the arts colony of New Hope, Pa., pushed for the project from the time it was proposed in April


Ms. Kendig was "very influential in developing a coalition for the theater at Wilde Lake," Mary Toth, executive director of the Howard County Arts Council, said in 1995. "She was certainly key in helping us develop that case of the value of arts education."

Born Deborah Davis, Ms. Kendig graduated from Claymont (Del.) High School in 1955. She moved to Philadelphia, where she attended the Philadelphia College of Art briefly.

After working in a series of jobs in Philadelphia, she married Warren Kendig in 1965. The couple moved to the Baltimore area nTC soon afterward, settling in Catonsville for four years before moving to Ellicott City in 1969.

Ms. Kendig was president of Rockland Elementary School PTA from 1979 to 1980, then became president of the PTA Council of Howard County from 1980 until her election to the school board )) in 1983.

Mr. Kendig said her father, Clyde, was a superintendent of schools in New Hope, so she "came from a tradition of concern for education, and that manifested itself later in her life."

"In private and public life, her innate instincts were always on the side of children. She took herself seriously but was very able to empathize with and listen to others," he said.

When she took office, the county's 23,000-student population was dwindling at the rate of 400 to 500 students a year, and schools were being closed.

Ms. Kendig helped establish the county's gifted-and-talented program and school-business partnerships and was a key player in the push to give school administrators more control of budgets and personnel.

Though her methods were sometimes considered brusque, Ms. Kendig earned respect as a tough and principled educator among those who opposed her on issues.

"She was a nice person who was capable of making tough votes," said Del. Robert H. Kittleman, a Howard County Republican. "She knew what was right and what was wrong and was able to stand up to pressure."

In 1992, the Maryland Association of Boards of Education honored Ms. Kendig with the Charles W. Willis Award for outstanding service.

Near the end of her second six-year term on the Howard board, Ms. Kendig was diagnosed with cancer in 1993.

In addition to serving on the Howard County Board of Education, she also served on the state Teacher Education Council.

Services are scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday at Rockland United Methodist Church, 8971 Chapel Ave., Ellicott City.

In addition to her husband, Ms. Kendig is survived by a son, Jonathan Kendig of Catonsville; two daughters, Christina Kappes and Jenny Lee, both of Westminster; two grandchildren, Joseph and Jacob Kappes of Westminster; her mother, Zola Davis of Arden, Del.; a brother, John Davis of Woodbine; and a sister, Mary Jo Moran of Cecilton.

Pub Date: 1/04/98

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