The Kendrick Kelley Honors Program provides a unique opportunity for outstanding history students to produce a significant piece of historical research and writing. It consists of three core components: 

  • Kelley Scholars are chosen from the most promising history majors, and given financial stipends to conduct independent research towards the completion of a Kelley Honors Thesis.
  • The Kelley Lecture Series brings distinguished historians to speak at Davidson.
  • The Kelley Award is granted to a senior history major who "best exemplifies Ken Kelley's personal qualities-superior academic performance, self-effacing leadership, and genuine integrity."

Juniors apply each spring to the History Department for senior year admission as a Kelley Scholar. Once accepted, they research and write a substantial senior thesis of 80-100 pages. Each thesis is expected to make a valuable and original contribution to historical research, based on primary sources and archival manuscript collections.

Honors Requirements

Candidates for admission to the honors program in history must maintain a have an overall grade point average of 3.2 after the fall semester of the junior year.

The Kendrick K. Kelley Program in Historical Studies represents a living memorial to Ken Kelley, Class of '63, an honors history graduate who was killed in 1968 while serving in Vietnam. The Kelley Program seeks to enrich the academic experience of students majoring in history and to encourage them to emulate Ken Kelley's virtues and achievements.

The program has three components. First, junior history majors who have grade point averages of at least 3.2 are invited to apply to the Kelley Program. Those admitted enroll in a year-long Kelley Seminar (HIS 488/489) for seniors, which culminates in the writing of a thesis and an oral defense of the same. Travel funds enable Kelley Scholars to pursue research in distant libraries and archives.  Second, the Kelley Lecture Series brings distinguished historians to the Davidson campus. Finally, the Kelley Award annually recognizes the senior history major who best exemplifies Ken Kelley's personal qualities: superior academic performance, self-effacing leadership, and personal integrity.


Past Historical Topics Researched by Kelley Scholars

  • Slave fatherhood in the Antebellum South
  • Informal political negotiation and the Kenyan Independence Movement, 1954-1963
  • The Stuarts and the royal touch in seventeenth-century England
  • Southern Presbyterian women missionaries in China
  • Soccer and the formation of Argentine national identity, 1867-1930
  • Jewish Bavarian regional identity and anti-Semitism in the Weimar Republic, 1919-1933
  • Free women of color in New Orleans, 1803-1840
  • The British East India Company's Relationship to African Slavery, 1658-1757
  • Joan of Arc, French Education, and the Thalamas Affair in Paris, 1904
  • Songs of the Spanish Civil War
  • The North Carolina Eugenics Program, 1933-1977

About Kendrick Kelley

The Kendrick K. Kelley Program in Historical Studies, is named after a Davidson alumnus Kendrick Kelley. A native of Jacksonville, Florida, Ken Kelley graduated from Davidson in 1963 with honors in history. Following graduation, he attended Yale Law School. As an officer in the US army, he began a tour in Vietnam in the fall of 1967, working in military intelligence. In February 1968, he was killed at the age of 26, when his helicopter crashed after an ambush. His comrades in the army remember him as a genial young man, who spent his free time teaching English at a Vietnamese orphanage. The Department of History at Davidson College is deeply honored by the generosity of the family and friends of Ken Kelley. The Kelley Program in Historical Studies stands as a living monument to a gifted and self-sacrificing man who embodied Davidson values. The program offers a remarkable opportunity for the very best students to challenge themselves as apprentices in the demanding and rewarding craft of historical research and writing.

For further information about the Kelley Program, please contact Prof. Patricia Tilburg at