Kemmer Anderson, McCallie’s unofficial poet laureate, who taught and inspired thousands of boys over his 42-year career on the McCallie faculty, died unexpectedly on Friday, March 3, 2023.
“Yogi,” as he was affectionately called by his students, retired in 2019 but remained active in school life, often attending campus events and visiting former students and faculty members. He was attending the funeral service of a former student, Brice Burbank ’87, when he collapsed. He died a few hours later at Erlanger Hospital.
“Kemmer was one of those legendary faculty members who touched the hearts and minds of thousands of McCallie students over his long career at McCallie,” said Head of School Lee Burns ’87. “His love – for his wife Martha, for his God, for poetry and literature (especially Milton), for academic curiosity, and especially his love for his students and his fellow faculty – was what made Kemmer special to all of us. We will always remember his booming voice, his bright eyes filled with passion and wonder, and his classroom wanderings, which somehow, amazingly, his students were able to follow and appreciate more than adults.”
His wife, Martha, served for many years on the faculty as a counselor and was editor of several of Kemmer’s volumes of poetry. The two traveled throughout the world, often with other McCallie faculty.
According to Martha, funeral services will be held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown Chattanooga. The funeral is set for Saturday, March 25th at 11:00 (10:00 visitation with a reception following the service). St. Paul’s is located at 305 W. 7th Street in downtown Chattanooga, near several hotels.
A native of New York City, Kemmer was a graduate of Davidson College and Pembroke State University. He served as a lieutenant in Korea. He worked briefly as a brickmaker, a carpenter, and a news reporter before attending Union Theological School in New York, where he decided that his real calling was to teach. He was hired as an English teacher at McCallie in 1977.
At McCallie, he taught virtually all levels of English. He also served as a goalkeeper coach for the varsity soccer team, created and served as faculty advisor to the McCallie chapter of Amnesty International, and held many other formal and informal campus titles. He was the recipient of the Keo Kio Outstanding Teacher Award, as well as many faculty study/travel grants. As an expert on Milton, he traveled to many Milton conferences around the world, including the 400th birthday conference of Milton in London in 2008. At one conference, he presented a paper on Milton’s influence on American Founding Father Thomas Jefferson.
With Martha’s assistance, Kemmer published numerous volumes of poetry and was eager to read his poems to anyone willing to listen. For close to two decades, he wrote a special Christmas poem that he distributed to fellow faculty members, alumni, and students of his poetry classes. His poetry has appeared in many national and international publications.