Distinguished Iowa Business Leader, Advocate for Education and Community Friend, passed on October 29, 2012
MUSCATINE, Iowa – One of Iowa’s most distinguished industrial leaders and philanthropists, James H. Kent of Muscatine, passed away on Monday, October 29, 2012, at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
Mr. Kent’s business career spanned six decades of success in agriculture related industries, including animal nutrition, feed manufacturing, corn refining and distillation, and food products. Following his honorable discharge from the United States Army after World War II, Mr. Kent joined his father in business in Muscatine. Mr. Kent moved progressively up into company leadership by holding positions in procurement, production, and sales before becoming President of the Muscatine industrial giants of Grain Processing Corporation and Kent Feeds, Inc. in 1965. Mr. Kent continued to serve in leadership roles, including Chief Executive Officer from 1998 until 2007, for the privately held administrative parent company Kent Corporation.
James H. Kent was born on July 25, 1923, in Indianola, Iowa, the son of Gage Allison and Mildred Ellen (Johnson) Kent. On June 19, 1949, James was united in marriage to Irene Kemp in Oskaloosa, Iowa. James attended Calvary Church, was a member of Rotary, and was an honorary and sustaining member as a Paul Harris Fellow, a 32nd degree Mason of Lodge #2 AF & AM, a member of the Scottish Rite, and the KAABA Shrine.
Mr. Kent was a quiet, self-effacing leader that leaves behind countless examples of things that enriched and improved the lives of people in Muscatine and Iowa. His philanthropic and community volunteerism touched untold numbers through his leadership contributions. Of particular interest to Mr. Kent was his support for higher education. Holding three honorary doctorate degrees, he applied his proven brand of steady and strategic leadership to the Iowa College Foundation, Simpson College, Iowa Wesleyan College, Iowa State University Engineering College, Judson University of Elgin, Illinois, and the Business Administration Board at the University of Iowa.
Throughout his life, James Kent was a devoted husband to his wife Irene for 63 years, a devoted father to his daughter, Katy Vandygriff and her husband, Cecil, and his son, Gage Kent and his wife, Mary, all of Muscatine. Mr. Kent was also an attentive grandfather to his eight grandchildren and four great grandchildren. Also surviving Mr. Kent is a brother, Harold L. Kent and wife, JoAnn, of Tampa, Florida.
“Our family will miss him greatly but he will also be missed by those who were fortunate enough to work with him,” said his son Gage, the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Kent Corporation. “He was a dear friend and an inspiring mentor to many. His positive attitude and his ability to ask the important question was something we can all learn.”
James H. Kent, most recently Vice Chairman of Kent Corporation, was active in the day to day business until his death at age 89. Mr. Kent’s son, Gage A. Kent, currently serves as Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Kent Corporation.