Ken Wilkinson stands by a sign for Walworth County, site of the first sociological study on community.

Ken Wilkinson stands by a sign for Walworth County, site of the first sociological study on community.

Everyone needs a hero and a friend.

I had a lot of heroes when I was a kid. Some fictional, some real. And as I recall their stories, the one magical quality they all possessed was their ability to turn darkness into light.

Ken Wilkinson possessed this magical quality. He had learned about the importance of turning darkness into light during his early years while listening to stories his mother told him about Jesus and heroes of the Bible. As Ken grew older, he practiced magic through his gentle nature and kind actions toward others. He lived a life of light. I think we can safely say Ken became a hero and a friend to many. He called others to wake up to the beauty of a life lived in service and love towards others.

Community: A Biography in Honor of the Life and Work of Ken Wilkinson began as a seed of desire in the heart of Ken's student/colleague, Al Luloff. The desire was to bring together former students and colleagues for a symposium to honor Ken's life and work. Luloff's hope was to stir others to continue Ken's important work in community development through research and extension efforts.

The Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development is honored to be able to publish this biography of Ken's life and work. As you will see, the early seed that was sewn has sprouted and spread in such rich and fertile ground. We've collected stories from family members as well as former students and colleagues, and have included some of Ken's own scholarly manuscripts, unpublished poems and personal diary entries. Our desire was to capture Ken's essence. To show his personal and professional side. Ken showed us that earthly heroes can experience self-doubt and slumps and still be an inspiration to others. We hope the honesty of the selections will encourage each of us to become a hero and a friend to others.