Mon 7 Nov 22
Friends and colleagues are paying tribute to Professor Ken Plummer, the internationally renowned researcher on sexualities and narrative, who has died. He lived in Wivenhoe for over forty years with his partner Ev Longland.
Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Essex, Professor Plummer published dozens of books and over 150 articles with his landmark works shaping the study of sociology and how we understand ourselves.
His main interests were the development of a humanistic method and theory to help towards a better social world where there will be less socially produced suffering. His research covered life stories, narratives, symbolic interactionism, humanism, rights, intimacies, global inequalities, queer theory, sexualities, masculinity and the body. He said his approach was “that of a critical humanist”.
Head of the Department of Sociology, Professor Pamela Cox, said: “We are extremely saddened to share the news of the death of Ken Plummer. Ken was a tour de force - an inspiring teacher, writer, supervisor, mentor and friend. He taught in our Department for over thirty years and pioneered the sociological study of deviance, sexualities, intimacy, citizenship and much more. Ken took early retirement in 2005 following a serious illness but continued to publish and present in the UK and around the world. He will be sorely missed by so many people. We will be sharing ways to mark and celebrate Ken’s life in the coming days.”
He arrived at Essex in January 1975 to teach social psychology and the sociology of deviance. The following year he also started a long-standing link with the Department of Sociology at the University of California at Santa Barbara where he also taught for many years.
He was deeply committed to the teaching of introductory sociology, having taught the first year at Essex for eighteen years and produced the textbook with John Macionis, Sociology: A Global Introduction. In 1996, he was founding editor of the journal Sexualities. Books and edited collections included Sexual Stigma (1975), The Making of the Modern Homosexual ed (1981), Symbolic Interactionism Volumes 1 & 2 (1991), Modern Homosexualities: Fragments of Lesbian and Gay Experience (1992), Chicago Sociology: Critical Assessments (1997: 4 volumes); Telling Sexual Stories (1995), Sexualities (2002: 4 volumes), Documents of Life-2: An invitation to a Critical Humanism (2001) and Intimate Citizenship (2003).
In retirement he continued to write at a prolific rate and maintained close links with academic colleagues and students. His more recent books include an extraordinary collection celebrating fifty years of Essex sociology in Imaginations (2015), which was truly a labour of love, and an indication of just how much the Department meant to him. In collaboration with his colleagues Neli Demireva and Paul Thompson they produced Pioneering Social Research: Life Stories of a Generation (2021), which sheds invaluable light on how modern social research in the UK was shaped. Other recent books include Cosmopolitan Sexualities (2015), Narrative Power (2019) and Critical Humanism: A Manifesto for the 21st Century (2021), which are each destined to become crucial guides through a world of crisis and possibility.
If you would like to submit a tribute to Professor Plummer please email firstname.lastname@example.org and it will be added below this article.
When I moved to Essex to start a PhD in the late 70s, Ken was the warm, smart-but-self-deprecating, funny academic presence in the Department of Sociology. I returned to Essex from my new base in Australia to defend my thesis and, later, as a Visiting Fellow. Ken welcomed me back, as he did pretty much everyone, with his trademark interest and empathy. When we reconnected while he fashioned the social history of Essex Sociology, Ken was as engaging in emails as in person – a rare quality. Few combined his enormous intellectual influence in sociology with such widespread high regard as a person. As a critical humanist, Ken Plummer dreamed of better worlds. In his lifetime he played no small part in helping to make worlds better for the people he knew, and the much larger number – most still to be born – that he could never know.
David Rowe, Emeritus Professor of Cultural Research, Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University. Current honorary appointments at SOAS University of London, University of Bath, and Beijing Foreign Studies University.
I am very saddened to learn of the passing of Ken Plummer. I studied with Ken in 1986-1987 for an MA in Sociology at Essex. I learned so much from him about sociological methods and truly appreciated his teaching style, along with the joy and fun he brought to the classroom during my graduate studies. Since then, especially in recent years, every year in November I used to email him, in gratitude for his teaching and also because of the gratitude Americans typically express on our national holiday each year when Thanksgiving Day rolls around and we gather with friends and family.
Ken and Everard were so kind to invite me to their home for my first Thanksgiving in the U.K. I have fond memories of sharing the Thanksgiving meal with him, Everard and other Essex faculty and friends in their home in Wivenhoe, a town I too later called home for a while as a Research Officer at Essex. In recent years Ken and I exchanged the occasional email and I was thrilled to learn he still had, as he put it, "a few books" in him. If only he had had more time, I have no doubt more books would have been forthcoming. I shall always appreciate how Ken went beyond the ‘regular call of duty’ as a professor and gave us opportunities to learn and grow, such as an off-campus retreat to share our research with our peers. His enthusiasm and sense of humour and uproarious laugh are unforgettable.
That spirit always shone through, even a year or so ago when I stumbled across a thoughtful podcast in which he was interviewed about his life as a gay man and what it meant to be gay in the 1950s. He was interviewed by an Aussie podcast team and did a splendid job reflecting on his life and the influences on his research. That Ken had a great intellect and influenced so many in his life is undeniable. He made a profound difference to so many with his teaching and research, in addition to simply being an exceptionally kind and thoughtful person. He will be sorely missed.
Laura Cooley, University of Washington-Seattle, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Addictions, Drug & Alcohol Institute
It is many decades since I last met Ken, but I received news of his death as if I had met with him yesterday. I was a student at Essex in the 70’s. Sociology, which I began studying as an adult, was my affirmation of my understanding of the world, and Ken extended that understanding so deeply and extensively - seemingly just by playing. Everyone loved Ken, and his deep compassion, curiosity (in the best sense) and love, extended to embrace all, (while always recognising that the woods are dangerous and having an acute grasp of what those dangers might be). It is because of him, I realise, that I continued to think sociologically and later trained as a psychoanalyst, introducing whenever possible an understanding of the wider world into that discipline and calling.
RIP Ken and condolences to Ev and the rest of Ken’s family.
Hilary Lester, Society of Analytical Psychology, London
I am deeply sorry to learn of the death of Ken Plummer - a huge, ground-breaking figure in British sociology, a pioneer in the academic study of sexuality, a generous interlocutor, and a truly wonderful and deeply humane person. He was a great influence in my own intellectual development and his work was a constant touch point for me in my research and writing through my academic career. I send my deepest condolences to member of the Department of Sociology: he played an enormously important role in the establishment and success of the Department, and I know he was loved and respected greatly both within the University and by sociologists and sexuality scholars around the world.
Professor Sasha Roseneil FAcSS PFHEA, Vice-Chancellor and President, University of Sussex
Back in the mid-1970s, I heard about Ken through the London Gay Liberation/Gay Left grapevine. I thought that Ken sounded like a sociologist with whom I’d like to work as I was trying to figure out myself, my gayness and how the social constructionist perspective he was examining might help me to get there. So I applied to be his MA student at Essex in 1977 and was delighted when I was accepted. Ken gave me lots of time as I struggled to understand it all. Little did I know that that year would be the start of a multi-decade relationship of sharing not only sociological perspectives but also our lives, loves and our stories. Not to forget ABBA, Broadway musicals, Michael Feinstein, Stephen Sondheim and meeting up twice in his beloved Santa Barbara.
As others on this tribute page have said, he would remember the minutiae of our lives even though he and I might go for months - and even years at some points - without being in touch. He always found ways to praise me and/or gently help me think through some issue or other. Even recently, as I was writing my memoirs on my website about my time at Essex, he helped me with some details of our lives back in those days when we, for example, along with others, set up a gay disco at the Recreation Hotel - a first for Colchester. He certainly was one to work outside of the ivory tower and get into activist work in the community. And that disco was where he met Everard in 1978!
Ken was probably in poor health during our last email exchanges in April but he never complained nor mentioned it. Ken battled with many health issues over the years, dealing with them with fortitude and positivity. After his liver transplant, he became a strong advocate of the Organ Donor program.
I will miss Ken so much. My heart goes out to the wonderfully supportive and loving Everard, Ken’s “bestest” friend. I watched how their love grew quickly and intensely and it warmed my heart. RIP, Ken.
Gregg Blachford, Montreal, Canada
I first encountered Ken Plummer in 1976 when I read his first book Sexual Stigma, published the year before. It was an attempt to apply a sociological perspective to the study of sexuality, social stigma and, in particular, homosexuality. For me, as a recent sociology graduate, the book was a revelation. I was still struggling to make sense of my own sexuality and this book vividly showed how a sociological imagination can illuminate even the most personal aspects of our existence. It was exciting, challenging and liberating. By 1977 I’d become a postgraduate student at Essex, with Ken as my supervisor. It was the beginning of a whirlwind period of academic study, political activism, parties, discos and community involvement – ultimately leading to a decade or more as a gay journalist with Gay News and later Gay Times. I remained in contact with Ken and was pleased to publish a few articles by him during those turbulent years of the 1980s, when Aids and Section 28 both seemed to threaten the advances we’d previously made. I feel privileged to have known Ken who played a pivotal role in my own life and remained a lifelong friend.
John Marshall, first editor of Gay Times
I was Ken’s editor on his big sociology introductory text at Pearson for a decade (2003-2013) and he became one of my favourite and closest authors. I remember the tough times as he battled with his health, and the wonderful release when his treatment and transplant (literally) gave him a new lease of life and he was back at his sharpest. His commitment to the book over the years was immense, both as a chance to open up sociology as an area of study to students across the globe, but especially as a pedagogical tool in all its colour and diversity. He loved the visual and interdisciplinary richness of the book and spent so much time working on the photographs, the artwork (paintings) and the wide-reaching cultural references and examples. It was one of the last big productions during a golden age for textbooks and a delight to be part of. Latterly we would meet up every year or two for a gossipy lunch and it was always a joy - such an unpretentious and decent man, modest and unassuming, happiest talking about his daily walks and learning the keyboard rather than work. I last left him in London wandering up to a West End theatre on his way to one of his treasured matinées, probably a Sondheim. I suspect it was bliss. My sincere condolences to all those who also loved Ken, especially Everard.
Andrew Taylor (Publisher, Routledge)
It was Ken who taught me the foundations of sociology, after I joined the Department in 1991 as a social historian. As a tutor on the First Year module 'The Sociological Imagination', I attended his lectures in the LTB, and, along with the students, was introduced to the founding figures and the discipline’s theoretical traditions. Ken would stride about the rostrum as he ruminated on ideas, lithe on his feet, with almost balletic poise. He had a fantastic ability to distil complex ideas. Every theory has a ‘triple life’, he would tell us, a content, a historical context, and consequences in the social world. That formulation came to mind just last week as my First Year students were struggling to distil unfamiliar ideas. It was a privilege to sit through Ken’s lectures and watch his passion for sociology come alive.Professor Mike Roper, Department of Sociology, University of Essex
I first met Ken through his books and writings – I was inspired by his passion for social research, intellectual sophistication and unique optimism. I later met him in person at a conference where he gave one of his spectacular presentations – his power point slides were unparalleled, so funny, colorful and deeply meaningful. No one presented as brilliantly and engagingly as Ken. It was such an honor for me to join the Department of Sociology at Essex when he was still actively involved, sharing his passion for sociology and his kindness with students and colleagues new and old. He will be missed. My deepest condolences to Everard and his friends.
Dr Isabel Crowhurst, Reader,, Director of Research, Department of Sociology
Ken will be missed by so many people. I had the great privilege to have been mentored and supervised by him as a PhD student at the Department of Sociology in the years bracketing the turn of the millennium. Ken was an exceptional personality, curious, inquisitive, frank, principled, strong-willed, smart, knowledgeable, enthusiastic, empathetic, joyful, and – despite all his achievements as a great scholar, very modest. His death is an immense loss for the discipline of sociology, and for LGBTQIA+ studies, to which he has contributed a massive and pioneering stimulus. Learning to listen, grappling with the art of storytelling, facilitating dialogue, recognising the intellectual poverty of judgementalism, refusing orthodoxy, cherishing food, poetics, music, the arts and – most of all – creativity, all of this I learnt to appreciate in spending time engaging with Ken. I would like to share my heartfelt condolences with Everard, Ken’s family, friends, and colleagues. Ken himself appreciated and recognised the power of collective memory (e.g., by assuming the role of editing Imaginations. 50 Years of Essex Sociology). It’s the sad moment now for us to memorise him, his life, and his contributions.
Christian Klesse, Department of Sociology, Manchester Metropolitan University
I first met Ken Plummer as an undergraduate student at Essex 1997-2000, his core theory lectures were so interactive. His passion for queer studies was so inspiring and you always hope that he would be one of those people who could live forever! 20+ years later, he fairly recently gave a lecture on queer history. He remembered what year I was as an undergraduate and who my sociology friends were - sharp wit, amazing lecturer and such a loss. He will forever live on in our memories and his legacy.
Mx EJ-Francis Caris-Hamer
Ken Plummer had talked about the roots of pluralism, a kind of hippy live and let live argument but presented with gusto and an indefatigable curiosity. Politically he was a campaigning activist with a lust for life we all were drawn to. He was a sociologist through and through, his personality plus his intellectual inquisitiveness the very definition of Sociological inquiry so derided by both left and right establishments. Plummer was both a rigorous intellectual and a gay activist in the early 80’s who held no truck with the political Stalinism we sported and in a parallel universe from the austere realm of the philosophy of language and in particular the writing of Wittgenstein we so admired. We were seduced by the pure language, sparse, pared back, minimal of the Tractatus, the decimally ordered number entries, each a short elliptic sentence to two. Supreme confidence in the reduction of words, less is more, yet years later re-evaluated by some as esoteric, as gnomic as the Buddhist (ish) aphorisms of Alan Watt himself. Back in the 1980’s the concrete words of Wittgenstein were the perfect foil to our pluralistic existence, our running off at the mouth, our unanchored messy selves, purged of our slackness, our consistent inconsistencies, a mantra to follow, to learn by rote. Ken Plummer embraced all of this messiness with an honesty that far outstripped ours.
I first met Ken many years ago as a sixth former - one of Everard's German "A" level students. Everard invited us to his house to meet his partner who had (rather shockingly and progressively) cooked spaghetti bolognese, with garlic in it, for our tea. As a provincial schoolboy in the early 80s, this seemed to be the height of Bohemianism - foreign food ... with garlic! We turned up - self-conscious, intrigued and fascinated - and were greeted by a delightful, kind, warm and witty man who charmed us all. For many years afterwards, when the CRGS boys German class met up, we'd often fondly mention "Ken and Everard".
I later became a publisher and alongside Andrew Taylor met Ken and Everard again at the Pearson sales conference in Brighton, when we were promoting the latest edition of his textbook. As expected, Ken and Everard sat in the main bar surrounded by the most interesting people Pearson had to offer - entertaining, provoking, enjoying themselves. I walked up with my (curly/ringleted-haired) partner Casey, who also worked at Pearson, to say "hello" and Ken threw his hand into the air, looked at her and said "Ah, but you look like a Pompeian mural!" Utterly charmed and disarmed, we joined them again, flattered to be included and accepted.
Well, I hope Ken would be delighted to know that many times since I've eaten spaghetti bolognese ... and garlic - I'm even now so sophisticated that I know you call it "ragu" and you're not even supposed to have it on spaghetti! And when I told the "Pompeian mural" about the sad news, she was as upset as I was. Ken was someone who emanated warmth and love and will be greatly missed.
Stuart Hay, CRGS schoolboy and later Textbook Development Manager at Pearson Education
I am very saddened to hear of Ken’s death. I was incredibly lucky to study Sociology at Essex and have Ken as my first year lecturer and tutor. What a course Sociology 101 was in Ken’s hands! He started his first lecture with the words ‘warning! Sociology will change your life!’ and used the remainder of the course to prove the statement true. He was an inspiring lecturer, who did all his teaching with passion, commitment and optimism. There was always a glint in his eye, the glint of someone who felt both incredibly lucky to be doing this for a living and who truly believed in the value and importance of the sociological project. I can still vividly remember many of his lectures, the most prominent one being the ethnomethodology lecture where, in his own breaching exercises, he proceeded to wander around the lecture hall, sit down next to students and strike up chats while discussing Garfinkel. He was also a brilliant tutor, you could tell he cared about teaching and passing on the love of sociology. He would be excited when he saw someone come in with a book and would ask them what they thought about it. He gave us a brilliant course and I’m sure I’m one of many whose view of sociology was fundamentally shaped by taking it. Even though I didn’t take Ken’s courses after first year and he was away for much of my third year he would still, when he was about, find time to chat about what I was reading. I can remember very well sitting on the sofa in his office discussing Giddens’ Transformation of Intimacy. Even though I wasn’t his dissertation student, he made time for me, just because, I think, he found talking about sociology and helping students to be the thing he wanted to do. I feel immensely lucky to have been one of his many, many students, I will miss him and send my deepest condolences to his family and friends.
Matt Dawson, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, University of Glasgow
In 1993, I came to Essex as a young visiting lecturer. While in graduate school in California I had read Ken’s work on the social construction of homosexuality. I was so excited to be working alongside him and Mary McIntosh, two pioneers in the field. On my first day in the sociology department, Ken greeted me with a big hug, commencing a thirty-year friendship. We co-authored an academic article on queer theory and sexuality studies-- his only coauthored article, I believe. It remains my most highly cited publication; for Ken it was a minor footnote in a brilliant and prolific career. I continue to be indebted to his thinking on narratives, life stories, and ethical humanism, and I will profoundly miss him.
Arlene Stein, Department of Sociology, Rutgers University
Deeply saddened to learn of the death of dear Professor Ken Plummer. He was my PhD supervisor 2001-2005. I’ll be eternally grateful to him for encouraging me, believing in me and giving me a chance.
My PhD years at Essex were wonderful and life changing. His passing feels premature to me. RIP Ken. Deepest condolences to Ev and family.
Dr Anne Beaumont , Alicante, Spain
I remember Ken Plummer with great fondness. As an student in the early 1990's I found his course on gender and sexuality fascinating, opening my eyes to so many issues. I will always remember being invited with other humble undergraduates to his home for dinner for a fun evening of discussion and laughter. Thank you Ken for passing on your learning and wisdom.
Lynda Harris, BA Sociology 1989 to 1992
With his curly fair hair, his passion, enthusiasm and sheer energy for sociology and life, Ken bounded into my life autumn 1992, 30 years ago. He touched so many lives, throughout his career, with his infectious love of all things sociological. He delivered sociology lectures to eager (and sometimes not so eager) undergraduates, ran the department of sociology at ESSEX for a period of time, with a wicked twinkle in his eye, and managed a prolific academic career. But he was also my friend, who not only loved writing about and observing social life, but other such stuff as musical theatre and art. He will be missed by many, not least of all, Ev. RIP Ken.
Chrissie Rogers, Professor of Sociology
I am very sad to hear of Ken's death. I was privileged to have him as a lecturer in Sociology 101 and Sociology of Stigma and Control, and as a supervisor for my undergraduate dissertation on the Culture and Stigma of Motorcycling. I always found him to be engaging, encouraging, enthusiastic, caring and supportive. Were it not for the encouragement I received from him and Rob Stones, I may well not have graduated.
Professor Ken Plummer is the reason I fell in love with sociology, the reason I fell in love with teaching, and the reason I fell in love with Essex. His humour, wit, love of his subject, and love of teaching were unsurpassed. I will never forget his first year lectures as a brand new student or attending his CPD workshops when I was a brand new academic. I was privileged to hear him speak on many occasions, formal and informal, and valued each one. The future of sociology will miss one of its greats. But as he inspired so many, there are plenty of them already out there and waiting in the wings to take up his cause with the same passion and joy. He was a shining light of compassionate and caring social sciences and an inspiration to us all.
Dr Jessica Clark, Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex
Absolutely devastated at the loss of Ken Plummer, who was a remarkable scholar but also a friend who was funny, kind, generous and brave. He founded the pioneering Sexualities journal and transformed LGBTQ studies. His intellectual reach was enormous and he left his mark on many fields. Ken was part of a generation of LGBTQ elders who faced huge barriers with dignity, courage and grace. He left an incredible legacy as a teacher and sociologist and will be much missed. My thoughts are especially with his beloved partner of many years, Everard.
Professor Róisín Ryan-Flood, Director, Centre for Intimate and Sexual Citizenship (CISC), Department of Sociology, University of Essex
I'm so saddened by the passing of Ken Plummer. He was my PhD Supervisor and I learned so much from him. He was such a prolific writer and academic. He also became a very good friend. My sympathies go out to Everard. RIP Ken. With much love,
Dr Beverley Chaplin
I first met Ken in 1984 when I was a visiting researcher at the data center at the University of Essex (coming there from my position as a faculty member in sociology at Pitzer College, one of the Claremont Colleges located near Los Angeles). We became fast friends and I remember him inviting me to give a talk in the sociology department. With Everard, we spent much time together talking, laughing, listening, eating, walking. Ken visited me in California and I visited them in Wivenhoe many times over the decades. We went to Stephen Sondheim musicals, talked about the growing field of gay studies, discussed sociology and teaching, and the many topics that interested him. He was one of the smartest, most insightful people I've known. Ken always had a perspective that required more in-depth responses and thoughtful thinking. He never gave up: he taught himself to play the piano in retirement so he could play his show tunes; he loved good food and puddings; liked walks on the beach while in conversation about the diversity and complexity and contradictions of people, art, music, and politics. He had a joyful laugh and a love of life. I will miss our monthly phone conversations. I will miss him greatly.
Peter Nardi, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Pitzer College, Claremont, California
Ken came to Essex while I was spending a sabbatical year at the sociology department. I could hear the clatter of his platform shoes outside my office before I got a chance to meet the person wearing them. And then gradually and gently, he made me a friend and we became each others' teacher. We talked and joked for the next 50 years, as though it would never end. How deep is the ocean? How high is the sky?
Professor Emeritus, University of California, Santa Barbara
Professor Emeritus, New York University
I remember Ken sitting next to me at a Christmas party of the department in a restaurant somewhere in Colchester town. That was the first party of the kind for me and I was reasonably nervous. I was nervous also because one of those professors was casually next to me. Then I lost that feeling in a matter of eight minutes, perhaps, as Ken started and continued chatting with me like a friend trying to catch up. In another 18 minutes, I was telling him about my first ever crash with a woman, separation with the then partner, leaving kids at home to study abroad, etc., etc., none of which I had imagined uttering even a bit at the start of the conversation. I didn't know how he got me there. He looked as if just listening, nodding, exclaiming sometimes in reassurance and listening again with those attentive sparkling eyes. That was perhaps his magic. Real magic of listening stories to let people tell their stories to him.
It was definitely one of the best educations in practice for a sociological interviewer to be at Essex. And he became my second supervisor. His lectures and seminars were always like that, too: He taught us by really doing it, like a craftsman with his tools, except that he was teaching what joy sociology was, too - such an encouragement.
20 years passed and I am not at all near him in that respect. I wish I had more chance to have that reassuring, encouraging conversation cum teaching with him particularly when it's tough to be on the boring side of the university life. I'm sure many of his students are feeling the same now.
Deepest condolences to Everard, other family members and friends of Ken. Ever so big thanks to Ken. I will always miss you and remember you with your magic of sociological listening.
Kaoru Aoyama (Ph.D. 2001-2005), Kobe University, Japan
I am deeply saddened by Ken’s death. My thoughts are with Everard, and I would like to express my heartfelt condolences. Ken’s work on narrative, critical humanism, and sexualities has inspired me since the beginnings of my time as a sociology undergraduate at Essex, now more than 20 years ago. Ken’s passing is a great loss for sociology. Ken stood for a sociology that is both intellectually deep and publicly relevant, caring, and compassionate. I hope that this will remain an inspiration for many for years to come. I feel privileged to have known Ken, and I will cherish memories of our conversations, lunches in London, and visits to the opera.
Dr Daniel Nehring, Swansea University
The news about the death of Ken Plummer was received with shock and sadness here at the University of Botswana. To our first year Sociology undergraduates, he was one of the founders of sociology. His book ' Sociology: A global introduction' which he co-authored with John Macionis has been used as a text for our introductory course in sociology. I was privileged to be a student of Ken Plummer at the University of Essex in the 1990s and late 2000 when I enrolled for my MA and PhD in Sociology.
Dr Latang Sechele, Lecturer in Sociology, University of Botswana
Greatly saddened to hear Ken has passed away. Ken very much took the Master’s cohort of 1986 under his wing at a time when the course was a bit of an orphan in terms of funding and staff commitments. By his encouraging intellectual imagination and his hosting (along with his partner Everard) of numerous social activities in Wivenhoe, he was pivotal in forging an eclectic and cosmopolitan bunch of postgrads into a community of scholars. I will always remember his eagerness to help both academically and pastorally and his great kindness and I am sure his legacy will long continue.
Kevin Kilsby MA Sociology 1987
Ken made me fall in love with Sociology in my first year at Essex. I changed to a Sociology degree and because of him, became a teacher of A level Sociology. His legacy has by now touched millions and I am so incredibly grateful to have had the privilege of being taught by this colourful, kind and imaginative person who shook the preconceptions from my village mentality. My thoughts go out to his partner, his colleagues and the multitudes now grieving his loss.
Elisabeth Voges BA Sociology, 1993 to 1996
I first met Ken in the early 70s when we were both at Ponders End Tech, aka Enfield College of Technology, the University of Middlesex; I was an undergrad and he was the tutor for my final project. As a closet gay in 1971, he brought me out and he has been one of my dearest friends for 50 years. Our focus was not the world of academia but the world of the musical and the dance. Even though I have lived in the US for 40 of those years we managed to meet quite regularly with my yearly visits to the UK and his regular visits to the US. We last spoke virtually at the end of August and although he never mentioned the state of his health I felt in my bones that things were not right. My spouse David and I send heartfelt condolences to Ken's spouse Evvie, and salute him for the total care he bestowed on Ken over the past years.
Geoff Coward, PhD Marietta, OH
I am saddened to hear of the news of Ken's death. Ken was a mentor and guide for me at the University of Essex during my PhD research in the early 1980s. I remember him for the convivial and astute manner in which he would question and help direct my sociological thinking. With his partner Ev, Ken was also a good friend of mine in Wivenhoe. I recall the many (probably too many) hours chatting around the 'top table' at the Rose and Crown. Though I moved away from Wivenhoe a while ago, I retain many very dear memories of Ken's friendship there.
Stewart Belfield Essex PhD Graduate 1984