It is too soon, it seems, for another statement announcing the passing of a beloved member of our seminary community. And yet, I am saddened to share the news of the death of Dr. Kenneth B. Orr (B.D. ’60; Th.M. ’61), president of the Presbyterian School of Christian Education from 1974-1979. Dr. Orr’s death comes after a long and courageous battle against Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Orr graduated from Duke University in 1954. After ROTC at Duke where he was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Air Force, he served as a pilot from 1954-57. In 1960-61, he earned the B.D. (equivalent to today’s Master of Divinity) and Th.M. degrees from Union Theological Seminary (now Union Presbyterian Seminary) in Richmond, Virginia. After three years as pastor of West End Presbyterian Church in Roanoke, Virginia, he returned to Union as assistant to the president, eventually becoming a vice president. Orr earned his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan in 1976, winning the honor of Outstanding Dissertation Award. From 1974-79, he was president of the Presbyterian School of Christian Education (now a part of Union Presbyterian Seminary). In 1979, he accepted the call to become president of Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina, where he served until 1997. Under his leadership, Presbyterian became a Carnegie Foundation Baccalaureate Institution, a liberal arts college with a national reputation. In recognition of his outstanding service, the governor of South Carolina awarded him the Order of the Palmetto, the state’s highest civilian honor. After retirement, Dr. Orr worked for some years as an academic search consultant with the firm of Jon McRae and Associates in Atlanta.
Dr. Orr is survived by his wife of sixteen years, Ruth Douglas Currie, of Montreat; three sons, Kevin Hunter Orr, Erie, Pennsylvania; Jeffrey Hill Orr, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania; and Jonathan Jarrett Orr, Richmond, Virginia; and seven grandchildren from his prior marriage to Janice Jarrett Orr, now deceased.
A memorial service in celebration of Dr. Orr’s life will be held at the Black Mountain Presbyterian Church in Black Mountain, North Carolina, on Saturday, July 30, 2016, at 2 p.m. with reception immediately following. After the reception, a private family internment service will be held at the Columbarium in Montreat, North Carolina. Memorial gifts may be made to Presbyterian College for the President Emeritus Dr. Kenneth B. Orr Memorial Endowment: Faculty Research Fellowship, Presbyterian College, Office of Advancement, 503 South Broad St., Clinton, SC 29325.