Dr. John Wells Kuykendall, PhD, DD, received a Bachelor of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary, a Master of Sacred Theology from Yale Divinity School, and a MA and PhD from Princeton University. Prior to accepting the presidency of Davidson College, Kuykendall served as the Presbyterian campus pastor for Princeton University. He also served as professor of religion and campus pastor for Auburn University. In 1982, he was awarded the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award and was selected as the Outstanding Teacher in the School of Arts of Sciences for Auburn University.
During his tenure as president, Davidson College completed a $160 million capital campaign, the largest financial campaign ever mounted by a liberal arts college at the time. Davidson also witnessed the construction of Baker Sports Complex and the Visual Arts Center, and six upperclassmen apartment buildings. Two programs receiving national attention were, also, added to the college curriculum: the Dean Rusk Program in International Studies and the medical humanities program.