LETTER FROM LOU SWANSON -- Read on November 27, 1993 at "A Celebration of the Life of Kenneth P. Wilkinson"

Ken was a gentle genius who set high standards for his students. Among community sociologists of his generation he is without peer. Almost alone, he effectively argued for the continuing importance of people, community, and diversity while the larger discipline fell in line with our culture's beliefs that we live in an increasingly homogeneous mass culture and that the importance of community and of local society have been eclipsed.

Ken was not a romantic on the subject of community, rather he was a realist. Ken's fundamental bias was to care for and believe in people and places. He believed in his friends and students and he believed that people have the capacity to make a difference. Ken always was willing to at least respect the biases of others. He never held my Southern roots and Unitarian Universalist beliefs against me, though at first he was not certain that a North Carolinian could make claims to being a child of the South.

I am proud that he was my academic mentor and my friend. The depths of his loss are unfathomable. I cannot perceive the world without him.