Remembering “Dr. K”

In News by Reporter News

There has been widespread reaction to the death of Friendswood School District Executive Director of Student Activities Dr. Myrlene Kennedy.

“Dr K,” as she liked to be called, was part of FISD for 55 years, including 28 years in the classroom. She also served as a Principal, Assistant Principal, administrator, coach and Assistant Superintendent.

“Dr. Kennedy will always have an unmatched legacy in FISD,” said Superintendent Trish Hanks.

School Board President Dr. Rebecca Hillenburg worked with Kennedy in a number of different capacities: parent (with a son that graduated FHS), as a teacher (when Hillenburg was an Assistant Principal at FHS), as a peer as Principals, and currently as a School Board member with Kennedy as Assistant Superintendent. “Dedication is the one word that comes to mind throughout our time together. ‘Dr. K’ gave and gave and gave—more than we will ever know,” Hillenburg said.

Friendswood ISD Trustee Dr. David C. Montz said, “Dr. Myrlene Kennedy is Friendswood High School.”

She was his Assistant Principal when he attended Friendswood High School in the 1980’s. “She graciously devoted her heart and soul to the children and people of Friendswood ISD for over 50 plus years. Just the mention of her name brings back so many good memories for so many folks whose lives she has touched,” Montz said, and called her “the ‘matriarch’ of Friendswood.”

“The impacts that she left on our district and its’ children were indicative of her quest for excellence,” said Board member Mike Shaw.

Since Kennedy’s passing on Sunday afternoon after a brief illness, many people have reminisced at how she changed the direction of their lives in such a positive way.

“I was able to interact with ‘Dr. K’ as a student, a teacher under her supervision and a co-worker,” said FHS Principal Mark Griffon. “’Dr. K’s’ influence helped motivate me to become an educator, and her words of encouragement were always with me. When I met challenges as a high school and then college student and through my work as an educator, I could always hear her voice telling me to ‘pick myself up and work through the issue.’”

“She set the bar high and expected everyone to do his/her very best. She lived and modeled that effort, and it is alive and well at FHS today because of her influence,” Griffon added.

Because of her leadership and involvement in the High School Theater Department, students and staff are mourning the loss of Dr. Kennedy.

Faculty member Pepper Smith remembers the first time she saw Kennedy, in February 1976 in the school auditorium. ”She was holding court with some 80-plus students about the opening of ‘The Music Man’ that weekend. Not a sound, not a rustle, not a blink. Her love, her passion, and her energy for musical theater was her gift to them, and they hung on her every word.”

Thirty-nine years later, “I will always remember her on that stage, and I am willing to bet she continues to direct and produce, and that no one there speaks, moves, or blinks either,” Smith said.

Kathy Powdrell, Director of the Spring Musical and a Theater Arts teacher said, “It is the end of an era here at FHS and with FHS Musical. After 46 years producing our all-school musical, she may have taken her final curtain call, but her legacy will endure.”

Powdrell has already instituted a way to honor Kennedy’s memory in the High School Auditorium: “There is a tradition in the theatre to leave an ‘Equity Light’ center stage. Typically it is an electric light that is left energized on the stage of a theatre when the theatre is unoccupied and would otherwise be completely dark. It is typically for safety. This seems an appropriate time to begin this tradition here at FHS.

“I know though in my heart that her ‘light’ will always shine bright and illuminate the theatre for the thousands of students yet to perform and the hundreds of audiences yet to see a FHS Musical,” Powdrell said.

Kennedy’s influence in the Theater across the area and State of Texas will be missed. “It will be hard to imagine a Regional UIL Academic Meet or State UIL Meet without her there to tally every point towards another Friendswood Championship and without her sitting by my side during adjudication. It will take some getting used to. Her legacy as well as her tenure with the University Interscholastic League is unmatched in the State of Texas,” Powdrell said.

Kennedy was made an Honorary Alumnus by the High School Alumni Association in 2008, one of less than ten people who have ever received that designation.

Judy Ballard Connors, Class of 1963 and an active alumnus said, “During my 53 year friendship with ‘Dr. K’ she taught me the importance of humility, humor, tenacity, hard work, reinventing yourself, perseverance and above all, loyalty to your work and to the people you care about the most. She inspired you to be better than you thought you could be. I am honored to have been her friend.”

Kennedy’s impact was felt outside the academic community in Friendswood. Mayor Kevin Holland called her “a fixture.”

“The impact of her work in shaping and caring for our kids for over 50 years cannot be understated. We will miss Dr. Kennedy’s wisdom, her dedication to Friendswood and her caring nature,” Holland added.

Jim Hill was a high school junior when Kennedy was hired at FISD. Today he is a councilmember. “Her (Kennedy’s) influence on FISD and the thousands of students she touched will never be surpassed. She was always willing to use her time and energy to help the entire alumni of FISD any way she could. She is irreplaceable and will be greatly missed,” Hill said.

Councilmember John Scott knew Kennedy for most of his life. “From my experience as a student, I found that she treated everyone with firmness and fairness. I’m greatly appreciative for that. Secondly, as an adult serving in our community, I cannot think of anyone so committed to serving our youth. The City of Friendswood, and FISD, has lost a true servant,” Scott said.

“She was surely a force of nature for the school district. I hear the School Board is going to name the auditorium at the High School after her. Now Friendswood will have its own ‘Kennedy Center,’” remarked Councilmember Steve Rockey.

Like others, State Senator Larry Taylor called Kennedy’s passing, “the passing of an era.” “For over 50 years, every student who passed through Friendswood High School has memories of ‘Dr. K’ and her huge impact on the school and its special events. I will always remember her for the huge ‘starring role’ she played in the history of FHS musicals. From its very beginnings, she was involved and made it happen every year. I never heard her sing or saw her dance, but many a student had their inspiration for a career in entertainment from their participation and interaction with Dr. Kennedy in those outstanding productions. She will be greatly missed here but I also know that she is singing and dancing in a far better place today.”

State Representative Dr. Greg Bonnen called Kennedy “…as dedicated a professional as I have ever seen.” “Although we cannot help but mourn this great loss, we should also celebrate her life and the wonderful impact she had on our community,” Bonnen added.

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