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King University Announces the Death of Former President Charles E. Cauthen Jr., Ph.D.

March 11, 2024

Charles E. Cauthen Jr., Ph.D., former trustee, provost and president of King College, died March 7, 2024. He was 92.

“We are saddened to share the news of Dr. Cauthen’s death,” said Alexander Whitaker, president of King. “He worked diligently to strengthen the school’s academic and financial foundations and used his skill and intellect to help King flourish in a number of ways. He was at the forefront of a group of resilient leaders who recognize the stabilizing, enriching value of a college to a regional community and economy, and because of his optimism and ability to work through any challenge, was able to accomplish a great deal on behalf of King. We are very grateful for the many contributions he made and for the lasting strength of his legacy.”

A South Carolina native, Cauthen received his bachelor’s degree in 1952 from Wofford College. He also earned a master’s degree at Columbia University and completed his doctorate at the University of North Carolina.

Prior to joining King, Cauthen served as president of Acme Markets in Bluefield, Virginia, for 17 years. Upon retiring from the supermarket franchise in 1982, he volunteered to serve as provost of King under Rev. Donald Rutherford Mitchell’s administration. Named president following Mitchell’s retirement in 1989, Cauthen was tasked with bringing financial stability to King, and was the first King president with a business background rather than just a Christian liberal arts education. Cauthen, who was unwilling to add to King’s debt, became an expert at gathering funds to pay for needs as they arose. He also freely gave of his own financial resources to help lessen King’s occasional shortfalls during that time.

Cauthen’s most notable contribution to King was the development of its first campus-wide computer network, KingNET. In 1991, he secured funding for the project, renovated portions of Sells Hall, built a computer lab in the lower level, and had fiber optic cable installed throughout the campus. Cauthen also spearheaded additional infrastructure improvements without incurring any debt, raising more than $2 million in designated gifts to support the project, and eliminating King’s long-term debt of nearly $1 million.

Cauthen retired in May 1992 after a decade of service to King in his various roles. He served on the boards of several financial institutions, and was a former elder, deacon, and trustee of Westminster Church in Bluefield, Virginia.

Cauthen is survived by his beloved wife of 64 years, Hazel Electa Peery Cauthen; his four daughters, Portia, Rachel, Sara, and Sidney, and their husbands; nine grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

Graveside services with military honors will be held Tuesday, March 12, 2024, at Maplewood Cemetery in Tazewell, Virginia. A memorial service will be held at Sycamore Presbyterian Church in Midlothian, Virginia at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 17, 2024.