Wesleyan Woman of Distinction – Dr. Arba Kenner ’74

Dr. Arba Kenner ’74 is serene. But behind her kind eyes and calm smile is a whirlwind. From Kentucky to Honduras to Las Vegas and other U.S. locations, she has served the needs of countless individuals over the years, and she is always planning her next project and trip.

A graduate of Campbellsville (Ky.) High School, she earned a B.S. in chemistry at Wesleyan and an M.S. in biochemistry at Vanderbilt University. While pursuing her master’s degree, she volunteered as a patient advocate at a women’s health clinic.

Next came the University of Louisville School of Medicine and an obstetrics and gynecology residency at Allentown Hospital in Pennsylvania, where her mother had trained at the School of Nursing.

Arba then practiced medicine in eastern Kentucky for four years in fulfillment of the National Health Service Corps requirement for the medical school scholarship she received.

“I loved obstetrics, and there were many wonderful moments,” Arba recalled. “I particularly remember delivering triplets during my residency, but every birth was special.”

Arba and Connie White ’76 were high school and college friends and practiced obstetrics and gynecology together in Frankfort from 1990 to 2003.

She became an active member of the First United Methodist Church in Frankfort and undertook her first mission trip to Honduras in 1999 under the auspices of her church. “That first trip was an eye-opening learning experience,” Arba remembered. “I realized for the first time how wealthy most of us in our country are. There is a huge divide between the rich and the poor there, and many people live in hopeless situations. It is very humbling to meet and serve the people of Honduras. Visiting a third world country gave me a new perspective on my own life.” Arba has volunteered in Honduras every year since then, and her most recent trip was in January 2020. Many doctors and dentists are part of the team, and they take a large inventory of supplies, including everything from artificial limbs to eyeglasses. She spends her time in an optometry role and fits patients with glasses.

Arba volunteered in Pass Christian, Miss., following Hurricane Katrina and put up dry wall and helped with cleaning efforts. “Being there, seeing the devastation and working with people from all over the country was quite an experience,” she recalled. She also assisted with clean-up efforts following a western Kentucky tornado and helped the youth group from her church with facilities repairs in a Las Vegas church.

Closer to home, Arba is part of an ecumenical group who sponsor the Frosty 5K each December to raise money for the Honduras mission, as well as for a local clinic and a water purification ministry. She has also been an AARP tax aide for 14 years and provides free tax preparation several days a week during tax season. An avid reader, she volunteers with Friends of the Library in Frankfort and helps wherever she is needed. She is secretary of her church’s United Methodist Women and is very active in their various studies and projects. She is also a master gardener and helps maintain a monarch way station in Frankfort.

Arba enjoys friendships from her college days, and until the pandemic, met for monthly lunches with Dr. Amy Jacobs ’74, Sue (Lawler) Davis ’75, Dr. Sallie Powell ’75, and occasionally Dr. Connie White ’76 and Dr. Cathy Crowe-Fowler ’74.

A Kentucky Wesleyan trustee from 2001 – 2016, Arba served on a number of committees and task forces. “I was honored to serve,” she reflected. “I had a very good experience at Wesleyan, and this was a way I could give back. The College was a welcoming place, and I matured and came out of my shell.” She remains grateful to chemistry professors Dr. W.L. Magnuson and Dr. Henry Connor for their guidance and encouragement. “They made it very clear that they had confidence in me, which gave me confidence in myself. They made an immeasurable difference in my life.”

Dr. Kenner’s next trip to Honduras is on the calendar for March 2022. She makes an immeasurable difference, too.