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Prominent Christian Artist Kenneth Quinn Passes Away

Dr. Kenneth Quinn
Dr. Kenneth Quinn

Kenneth Merle Quinn says “to God be the glory” after receiving an honorary doctorate at Mississippi College.

For the wonderful Christian artist and beloved Mississippi College professor, the shining moment at a December 2011 graduation summed up Dr. Quinn’s extraordinary life. The 81-year old Mississippi native died of congestive heart failure Monday at an independent living facility in Ridgeland, family members say.

After three decades teaching at Whitten Junior High, and 15 years at his alma mater, the Jacksonian leaves behind an amazing legacy of distinguished service.

One of the first students in the Mississippi College Art Department in the 1950s, Kenneth Quinn polished his skills to become a gifted artist and incredible teacher. His heart was always with the Lord and helping transform students into future artists.

“Kenneth M. Quinn loved the Lord. He spent his life using his art – his God-given talent to educate, praise, uplift and glorify God,” said Art Department Chair Randy Miley. “The countless students that he came in contact with will always remember him as a caring individual who made you feel important.”

At age 73, he became “Dr. Quinn” after receiving his doctorate nearly a decade ago. But that much-deserved tribute didn’t change the modest man one bit. He stayed a down to Earth person with a passion for the Mississippi College family, and spreading God’s love. He always kept his office in the Aven Fine Arts Building open for friendly chats with visitors.

“He believed that this university is part of God’s plan to minister to the world,” Miley said. “This message, tremendous as it is, is echoed in many of his artworks.”

Dr. Quinn advanced his artistic skills under the guidance of Art Department Founding Father Samuel Marshall Gore in the late 1950s. In the 1960s, the two friends were roommates as graduate students at Illinois State University.

Not long ago, their artworks were featured at a Gore Galleries exhibit on the Clinton campus. The Mississippians served as mentors to countless art students.

Kenneth Quinn discovered Baptist-affiliated Mississippi College to be a perfect fit as he grew his faith. “He never forgot the many people that supported him and nurtured him as a young Christian,” Miley said. “We will miss him and thank God for sending him to us.”

Longtime friend and MC colleague Danny Rutland first learned art under teacher Kenneth Quinn as a 7th grader at Jackson's Whitten Junior High. “He touched so many lives in so many ways,” Rutland said. “He was the reason I came to MC.”

Over the years, the 1961 MC art graduate received plenty of significant honors. MC leaders saluted the artist with its Order of the Golden Arrow award in 2006. The 2009 MC Yearbook was dedicated in his honor. For the home-grown artist who specializes in watercolor, WLBT-TV 3 in Jackson selected Quinn for its Spirit of Mississippi award in 1981. After retiring from Whitten Junior High in Jackson in 1991, he joined the university’s art faculty.

The Jackson native produced art masterpieces including works detailing the A.E. Wood Coliseum, the university’s historic Provine Chapel and Nelson Hall.

President Blake Thompson said the Mississippi College community is saddened to learn of the passing of this distinguished professor, award-winning artist and friend to many. “His life as a Christian, accomplished artist and teacher, and an alumnus with a passion for Mississippi College epitomizes what our university stands for. His works hang in virtually every building on campus and in my study at home. They are treasured memorials to one of MC’s most remarkable lives.”

School of Education Dean Cindy Melton says Dr. Quinn was much more than a phenomenally skillful artist. “He was a very generous and kind person who knew that he was meant to share his talent and his gifts with others.’’

His beautiful artwork, Dr. Melton said, is a daily reminder of that “we are not here to serve ourselves; we have a higher calling. We are meant to share what we have with others, and we are called to use our gifts to point people to our Savior.”

Kenneth Quinn leaves behind many admirers at Parkway Baptist Church in Clinton.

The dean of MC’s School of Christian Studies and the Arts, Wayne VanHorn will miss his dear friend. “Mississippi College was blessed by Ken’s humble, unassuming presence on our campus,” he said. “He loved Jesus and he loved to paint about biblical things. He inspires me to this day.”

After receiving his doctorate at Mississippi College, Kenneth Quinn said the graduation day salute wasn’t really about him. “It’s all about the people who got me to this point – parents, teachers and preachers.”

Dr. Quinn’s honorary doctorate is believed to be the first in MC history for a recipient from the university’s Art Department. The Baptist-affiliated university established the Kenneth M. Quinn Scholarship in his honor. Donations can be made to the fund at or the Mississippi College Office of Advancement, Box 4005, Clinton, Mississippi 39058.

Survivors include his sister Shellye Prim (Jack) of Flora, niece Judy Chapoy (Andre) of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, nephew Gene Fortenberry (Dotty) of Madison, and one great-niece and several great-nephews.

School officials say a celebration of life service is set for the Clinton campus this fall.