Kent Campus Center donor, valued friend of college dies at 89

by Logan Roberts

The Simpson Community is mourning the loss of James H. Kent, former trustee and valued friend of the college, who passed away on Oct. 29, 2012.

Kent resided in Muscatine, but was born on July 25, 1923, in Indianola, Iowa, the son of Gage Allison and Mildred Ellen (Johnson) Kent. He was united in marriage to Irene Kemp on June 19, 1949.

The Simpson College Board of Trustees welcomed Kent as a member in May of 1972. In 2004 he was named an honorary lifetime member.

Kent and his wife Irene have been supporters of the college for over 30 years. Neither of them are alumni, although Kent did attend Simpson for a brief time during the summer of 1942.

“They have been long time supporters and believers in higher education,” Bob Lane, vice president of college advancement, said.

Kent and his family gave a generous gift of $4 million to help fund the construction of the Kent Campus Center, a $14 million project. This was the largest outright gift from a living donor in Simpson’s history. The building was named in their honor.

“Their gift gave the college the boost and momentum it needed to make the dream of the new campus center become a reality,” Lane said.

Kent previously served as the Chief Executive Officer and Vice Chairman of the Board for the Kent Corp., his family’s business.

“The Kent Corp. was originally started in Indianola before it moved to Muscatine,” Lane said. “I think it’s meaningful that it began just blocks away from where the Kent Center now exists.

Kent was able to attend the grand opening of the new campus center on Oct. 19, 2012. His son, Gage Kent, also a trustee, introduced their family. They were warmly greeted by the audience.

Through the years Kent and his wife contributed to the college in a variety of ways. Not only did they donate to annually, but they also volunteered, attended and hosted a variety of alumni events.

“Their contributions have been much greater than just their financial support,” Lane said. “They have contributed their time, talent and treasure and always encouraged others to do the same.”