Henry Kemp-Blair, a longtime professor of communications at Chapman College, died, apparently of a heart attack, at his home in Orange on Wednesday morning. He was 56.
A native South African, Kemp-Blair had just finished his 25th year of teaching at the four-year college, where he was "very, very active with the students and was tremendously loved," said college spokesman Jerry Derloshon.
Kemp-Blair, a 1951 alumnus of the college, also wrote, directed and produced a number of plays there. The night before his death, Kemp-Blair was rehearsing for "Dance Is," a dance show that will open at Chapman College tonight.
"The theater was his love and that's where he spent his life," Derloshon said. The family is in the process of organizing a memorial scholarship fund for communications majors at the college.
"He showed a very visible and genuine interest in the well-being of the students," Derloshon added. "He was such a gentle and caring and beautiful person, with a great sense of humor."
After coming to the United States in 1946, Kemp-Blair graduated from the School of Theology at Claremont College with a master's degree in theology.
The professor had a history of inoperable heart problems but remained "optimistic" and "energetic," and "it takes a special kind of person that can do that," Derloshon said.
Kemp-Blair is survived by his wife, Ramona, and three daughters, Iris Gerbasi, Cynthia Wilson and Gilia Humrich. Memorial services have been scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at the First United Methodist Church in Orange.