Dr. Raynard Kington
December 04, 2020

Et cetera: A Q&A with Dr. Raynard Kington

More about Andover’s 16th head of school, his likes, dislikes, and perspectives on opera!
by Rita Savard

What is the best advice you ever received?

Never mistake a clear vision for a short distance.

What is one thing about you that might surprise people?

I have, relatively late in life, developed a taste for opera (CDs only. I am not a big fan of the live performances, strange as that may sound!)—it’s the ideal music for an afternoon of cooking.

Your favorite food?

Close call between Southern African American and Indian—northern or southern!

Who is your personal hero?

It’s a toss-up between Septima Clark and James Baldwin. Clark for her tenacity and commitment and creative problem-solving. She was an African American schoolteacher who set up a network of citizenship schools to educate African American adults in the Deep South about the rights and responsibilities of citizenship during the era of the civil rights movement. And Baldwin for his incredible intellect and fearlessness in speaking truth to power in his art and in person.

Best advice for someone who has hit a creative wall?

Give yourself breathing room to think—by stopping thinking. Put down the task for a day, go for a walk, listen to your favorite CD, go shopping. Come back and try again.

Your least favorite food?

I am not a fan of mid-20th century “quick-and-convenient” American cooking. Does that type of food have a name? You know—casseroles requiring canned soups and vegetables, cake mixes with lots of food coloring, bizarre Jello dishes. It was a bad time for good food—even though I know that type of cooking was a godsend for many women, especially working women with kids and husbands who did not know how to open a can!

Favorite movie of all time?

I can’t choose one, so here are five! The Trip to Bountiful, Sounder, Fences, Babette’s Feast, and I Am Not Your Negro.

Most recent binge-watch?

I have developed a taste for British detective series—usually well-acted, sufficiently complex plots, and a resolution at the end. I loved Morse, and I watched all of Lewis and Endeavor in a major binge. (All three on Amazon Prime.)

What is the last book you read?

His Excellency by Joseph Ellis. A biography of George Washington.

A book that changed your life?

James Baldwin’s Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone. It opened my mind to the possibility of life as a gay Black man, especially because both of my parents were great admirers of Baldwin.

What do you listen to while you’re driving?


Your go-to song or album for uplifting your mood?

The entire CD of Jessye Norman and Kathleen Battle’s concert of spirituals at Carnegie Hall—especially There Is a Balm in Gilead and He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.

Where do you go to find inspiration?

I keep in my office a two-volume set of large art books entitled Souls Grown Deep: African American Vernacular Art. The books are an extraordinary survey of African American “folk” art, mostly from mid-to-late 20th century. It is just thrilling every time I pick up those books to see the array of African American men and women, most with very little formal education and no formal art training, most in the rural Deep South with very little money, who felt compelled to create their art no matter what. And they made the art out of nothing but bits and pieces of whatever they found—and it’s not just a few, there are scores of artists profiled. I think many did not even consider what they did to be “art.” It was just them living their lives doing what they had to do. And the art is amazing. Whenever I close that book, I think, man, if they could do what they had to do, you can do what you have to do.

Best thing so far about living and working at Andover?

The campus. It really is amazing, especially with the buzz of students as the new school year starts, even in our current strange world!

Categories: Leadership

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