Kemp was the serving pastor of the Grace M.E. Church in Bloomington before being elected the 8th president of IWU in 1908. He was born near Rising Sun, Indiana on April 16th, 1868 and moved to Illinois with his parents in 1883. He graduated from DePauw University in 1893. He was an instructor at Wesleyan for a year before becoming president. His presidency ended in 1922.