Kent McCuskey Weeks: Trailblazer and 'bucket filler'

“Filling everyone’s buckets” was important to attorney and educator Dr. Kent McCuskey Weeks, 82, who died last July in Nashville, Tennessee.

Eldest son Kevin M. Weeks explained.

“Over the course of his career,” he said, “my father was involved in many complex negotiations. He thought of negotiations (and navigating different traditions) as the work of ‘filling everyone's buckets’ as much as possible. Of course, you can't make everything perfect, but Dad was a big believer that you can find creative ways of honoring everyone's interests.”

Perhaps the most memorable way he accomplished that was through his work with Africa University.

An attorney and educator who specialized in higher education, Dr. Weeks took the idea of a United Methodist university for all of Africa and gave it structure. He crafted the legal blueprint and guided the creation of the legal entities that make up Africa University today. He also helped draft the legislation that the Parliament of Zimbabwe approved, permitting the first private university to operate in the southern African nation. He served as general counsel of AU for more than 20 years.

“The main thing I remember about Dad's early involvement with Africa University was how the project just ‘fit’ him,” said Kevin Weeks. “He loved solving the complex legal problems of setting up a private university in Africa, he loved the people associated with Africa University, and he loved the core idea of the University and its students. Working with Africa University was perhaps the most profound professional work he ever did.”

Practicing law in Nashville and teaching at Vanderbilt University for many years, Dr. Weeks focused on legal issues affecting higher education. He consulted with colleges throughout the United States, but his work with Africa University was his greatest professional passion.

In 2015, Dr. Weeks and his wife, Karen H. Weeks, established an endowed scholarship fund to support at least one Africa University student annually in perpetuity. They also provided support for an ongoing project to document and preserve the history of The United Methodist Church in Africa. In his honor, the university named the library’s Kent M. Weeks History and Archives Hall.

Recently, the Weeks family added a gift of more than $120,000 to the Kent and Karen Weeks Endowed Scholarship Fund.

“My parents, and all of their kids, believe deeply in the worth and potential of every human person,” Kevin Weeks said. “We hope these gifts help Africa University students reach their fullest potential and develop abilities that can then help them make significant contributions in their home countries, or wherever their gifts take them.

“Working for and helping to shepherd Africa University into existence and to its current success was profoundly meaningful to Dad. Our family is grateful to be able to honor him in this way.”

James Salley, Africa University Associate Vice Chancellor for Institutional Advancement, described Dr. Weeks as “a trailblazer in higher education from a global perspective, an intellect and scholar” whose “gifts enabled AU and other institutions who wanted to move into international advancement the ability to do that.”

Acknowledging Dr. Weeks’ commitment to Africa University, he added, “The greatest need at Africa University is student scholarships. A scholarship from the Weeks endowment enables a person from Africa to help change Africa and the world.”

“My parents spent their whole lives dedicated to working for and thinking about education, especially public education and education that helps everyone,” said Kevin M. Weeks. “Both of my parents believed deeply that key to building a great society is access to high quality education for everyone. They wanted good schools and opportunity for their three children and, equally, for everyone else's children.” 

—Story by freelance writer, Barbara Dunlap Berg