Kitts family celebrates first Christmas at UNA

Corbin Kitts, 6, explains how Elfie will lose his magic if he is touched. Elfie knows all about UNA and the Kitts’ new home. 

Since its opening in January 1940, the home of the president has housed five presidents and witnessed nearly 75 Christmases.

Besides President Kitts and his family, the house has been home to only one other president with young children — President Norton, his wife and three children Mark, Bert and Betty. The Nortons called UNA home from 1948 until President Norton retired in 1972.

President Kitts, his wife Dena, and their two young sons, Corbin, 6, and Colin, 9, moved into the home in May 2015.

Having small children on campus is a reminder that President Kitts is more than the president of the university, said Student Government Association President Nick Lang.

“He is a husband and a father, as well,” he said. “I find enjoyment in seeing them at campus events. Overall, I think it is just an exciting time to have such a wonderful family and president on our campus.”

The president’s home is one of the first buildings visitors see when they come to campus, and it is one the Department of Facilities Administration and Planning decorates for the holiday season.

The Department of Facilities Administration and Planning decorates the outside of the home, said Assistant Vice President of Facilities Administration and Planning Michael Gautney. The department has been doing this for over 20 years.

The occupants decorate the inside, which the Kitts family has taken pride in.

The Kitts decorated the interior in shades of purple and gold to represent their new home at UNA.

Dena Kitts said she was particularly proud of the purple and gold Christmas tree the family decorated in honor of the university.

“It’s always been the traditional red and green, but we decided we are the lions and should have a lion Christmas tree,” she said.

Dena Kitts said her favorite part of Christmas is the excitement she sees in her children and everyone on campus.

“There seems to be a good spirit in the air,” she said. “We’ve noticed that, not just with Christmas but particularly here as Ken’s become the new president and we’ve become the new first family, there’s a real excitement in the air around the campus and around the community, and we appreciate that.”

UNA’s first family spends their holiday time much like every other family, President Kitts said.

Along with traveling to see family in the Carolinas, they will take time to observe some timeless family traditions.

“We bake cookies for Santa,” Dena Kitts said. “Colin and Corbin tell me Santa has to be hungry after flying all around the world.”

They also check Santa’s trek on the North American Aerospace Defense Command website, she said. The boys have to be in bed before Santa arrives in North America.

Dena Kitts said they enjoy sitting together on Christmas Eve reading the Christmas story in the Bible.

“As the boys get older they’ve begun to participate more and take turns reading,” she said. “We talk about the true meaning of Christmas and the gift of love given to us.”

The family spends their Christmas morning gathered round the tree opening presents.

Corbin said his favorite part of Christmas is Jesus’ birthday and presents.

“I’m getting more video games,” he said.

Colin said he likes receiving presents, too.

The family has begun a few new traditions, Dena Kitts said.

One includes a new friend who found his way to UNA.

“Elfie, our Elf on the shelf, has made an appearance,” she said.

Corbin said it is important not to touch the elf because he will lose his magic.

Elfie knows all about UNA and the Kitts’ new home, Dena Kitts said.

“It’s also been a fun conversation piece when we host formal receptions and holiday parties here,” she said. “A guest may be in conversation, look up at the chandelier, and see Elfie staring down at them.”

Another new tradition the family has started is making a contribution of time or money to a service project in the community, which reminds the boys of the blessings of giving rather than receiving, she said.

“This year, we’re sponsoring two children to receive books through our local United Way (of Northwest Alabama) in conjunction with the Dolly Parton Library,” she said.

Though the holiday season is a busy one, President Kitts said he and his family enjoy entertaining students in their home and supporting the campus community.

The family recently hosted the LaGrange Society in their home.

Junior Jose Figueroa-Cifuentes, a member of LaGrange Society, said being in the president’s home and spending time with the Kitts family felt like spending time with his own family.

“President Kitts and his wife greeted us with the most humble personalities,” he said. “The boys were playing around the house, and I felt like I was at a relative’s house.”