Katharine “Kitty” Clark Kersey '53 | Handley 100th Notable
Katharine “Kitty” Clark Kersey ’53

Katharine Clark was Valedictorian of the Class of 1953, head cheerleader, and voted “Most Likely to Succeed”. She graduated from Westhampton College at the University of Richmond in 1956.

Katharine married Wilbur Kersey, a member of the Handley Class of 1952. Wilbur was student body president and captain of the Handley football team. Wilbur also graduated from the University of Richmond in 1956 where he was President of the Student Government and a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

The Kersey’s moved to Portsmouth, Virginia in 1959 after Wilbur completed his Masters in Divinity and became the minister of Court Street Baptist Church. With Kitty as teacher, they opened the Court Street Academy with 13 students at the church in 1965 to address a lack of kindergarten classes in public schools.

Kitty earned her masters degree in early childhood development while teaching kindergarten and being the mother of three. She joined the faculty of Old Dominion University as an instructor in 1969, earned her PhD, and became a professor in 1973. She was with the university for 45 years.

Dr. Kersey was described as the "driving force" for what is now known as the Children's Learning and Research Center at Old Dominion University. Part of the Darden College of Education & Professional Studies, the Children's Learning and Research Center focuses on the early care and education of students. In addition to providing the high quality care, education and support for families, the Center serves as a training facility for undergraduate and graduate level students in early childhood education (Pre K-3) and elementary education (Pre K-6).

In 2008, the Board of Visitors of Old Dominion University recognized her efforts toward raising more than $1 million in private gifts to match a state capital appropriation to renovate and expand the Center.

Dr. Kersey wrote five books and produced a three-video set called "The 101s: A Guide to Positive Discipline," which earned national honors. She wrote a weekly column on parenting and childhood issues that appeared for 12 years in The Virginian-Pilot and Ledger-Star, the Roanoke Times and other papers. She was also regularly interviewed on local television about issues pertaining to children.

A fellow ODU faculty member recently described her as a kind, generous person who believed in treating children with respect.

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