Dr. Crystal Kuykendall, a nationally recognized educator, attorney, author, and motivational speaker, shared experience and insights from her life journey with the Austin Prep community on Monday, March 9th as part of the St. Augustine Lecture Series. Dr. Kuykendall used the Augustinian value of caritas – or love – as the basis to “Presume Good Intent,” which is a central theme within the Austin Prep community. Her presentation was held in Richard J. Meelia Hall before an audience of Austin Prep students, faculty, and staff.
Dr. Kuykendall reminded students that love is an extraordinary force and blessing in our lives, and that no matter our background, it is the quality of relationships that we have in life that brings us joy. She emphasized the importance of developing leaders who can look past differences and help us search for and understand what is important in life.
“We live in a society with too much hate, too many divisions and differences that move us away from our common purpose, which is to embrace the similarities between us.” Dr. Kuykendall said. “We need to understand that when we show reciprocity in love, friendship, and kindness we create communities that care.”
Dr. Kuykendall also addressed life challenges that force us to appreciate human frailty, and emphasized the importance of goodwill and blessings from others during times of need. “I always wanted my children to know they could make a difference,” Dr. Kuykendall said. “Sometimes you are a beneficiary of other people’s love. But it is important to be a benefactor, too.”
At the conclusion of her presentation, Dr. Kuykendall took questions from Middle School and Upper School students on a wide range of topics. Through personal examples and anecdotes, Dr. Kuykendall encouraged students to be “Merchants of Hope” through change, persistence and resilience, and shared her own story of what inspired her to pursue a career in education.
Named for Austin Prep’s patron saint, the St. Augustine Lecture Series began in 2015 and is designed to enrich the intellectual life of the school community by exposing students to accomplished individuals who share their experiences and lessons learned in life. Previous speakers include: Brian Montgomery, former Deputy Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary in the Executive Office of President Bush and former Housing & Urban Development Secretary for President Obama; Major General Charles W. Whittington, Jr., the Deputy Commanding General of Operations in the U.S. First Army; Dr. Steven DiSalvo, current President of Endicott College and Austin Prep Trustee; Grace Cotter Regan, the first female president of Boston College High School; and Rev. Raymond F. Dlugos, OSB, an Austin Prep Trustee and Merrimack College’s Vice President of Mission and Ministry.
A former elementary and secondary school teacher, Dr. Kuykendall also has taught at Seton Hall University and Montclair State University. She is the former Executive Director of the National Alliance of Black School Educators and served as the Director of Urban and Minority Relations for the National School Boards Association. Appointed by President Jimmy Carter to the National Advisory Council on Continuing Education, she served as Council Chairperson from 1979-1981. Most recently she served on the Board of Directors of the Maryland Mentoring Partnerships and the Board of Directors of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Greater Chesapeake Maryland, Currently, she serves as Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Henry C. Gregory III Family Life Center Foundation of Washington, DC.