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Ruby Killian grew up in Blacksburg, SC and attended the Asheville Normal School for two years. Both the Asheville Normal School for girls and the Asheville Farm School for boys (which evolved into Warren Wilson College) were established by Presbyterian missionaries to serve the young people of the Southern Appalachian mountains. Ruby left the "Normal" in 1930 and went on to pursue a career in nursing. Her daughter-in-law became a member of the Warren Wilson College Church Relations Council. Because of these two ties with Warren Wilson College, Ruby Killian Jenkins came to know and love this campus. She established this scholarship 1993, in Ruby’s words, as "unrestricted, as I hope in this way you can get the greatest good from it."
Ruby was the fourth child of eight children born to James G. and Margaret R. Killian. After her mother’s death from tuberculosis in 1921, her father remarried and had three more children by his second wife. Life was a struggle for such a large family whose finances had been drained by the prolonged illness of her mother. But, she went on to graduate with honors from high school and was encouraged by her teachers to attend a college. Offered assistance by the school and her older sister, she enrolled in Asheville Normal College.
Ruby became a certified teacher upon her graduation, but wanted a different career. Nursing was her real love. She graduated from Charlotte Presbyterian Hospital Nursing Program in 1933, and eventually became the head surgical nurse at St. Peter’s Hospital in downtown Charlotte. In 1934 she met her future husband, John Edward Jenkins, when he was admitted due to work related injuries. They were married in 1936.
After the birth of Edward in 1937, Ruby gave up hospital nursing, yet retained her nursing certificate through continuing education to allow her to volunteer as a Registered Nurse. Her life was caring for family, neighbors and friends. She stayed with the sick and injured in the hospital and provided nursing attention to anyone in the neighborhood suffering from anything from dog bites to terminal cancer. Calls from frightened parents or spouses sent her to the hospital in the middle of the night to talk with doctors and offer skilled nursing care. In the Charlotte community, Ruby helped establish the Charlotte Crisis Ministry, an out-reach program providing basic services for the needy. The Crisis Ministry was a joint effort of Charlotte churches.
But she wasn’t all about volunteering and helping. She was a very spirited tennis and basketball player and insisted her children learn to shoot hoops and develop a decent forehand. A very athletic woman, she could out-run most in her 70’s.
Ruby loved to entertain for new brides, for baby showers and especially for her huge extended family. Christmas Eve often meant forty-plus relatives for dinner and gift exchanges. There was always extra food available for family members who dropped by for a visit.
But, even with a full and rewarding life, Ruby never forgot how hard it was to be poor and want to get ahead in the world. The answer for her was education. She had received help from a college and family; her son had been educated by his family with the understanding he would pay for his younger brother’s schooling. Each understood the need for financial aid to help the bright and ambitious get ahead, and set out to establish scholarships at the schools they attended to give others a good start in life. They contributed to scholarships at Charlotte Presbyterian, N.C. State University School of Engineering and Warren Wilson College.
Ruby died September 12, 1999 from her type one diabetes. Her husband died February 21, 2009 from a stroke. Before his death, John established the Hunter Jenkins Foundation to provide continuing support of the scholarships for future students in need.
A narrative by John Edward Jenkins, Jr. and Margaret J. Hunter