Deceased September 7, 2022

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In Memory

Kenneth N. Kermes, 87, of South Kingstown, R.I., died peacefully on Sept. 7, 2022. He spent his final days surrounded by his wife of 64 years, Sue; children Suki Tobin and Rob Kermes; and grandchildren Beth, Chris, RJ and Elle.

Ken was born May 21, 1935, in Lafayette, Ind., and raised in Connecticut. Along with Darien High School classmate Harry Clark ’57, he chose to attend Amherst College, and so began a lifelong love affair with his alma mater. Ken’s classmates remember him as a natural leader, loyal Beta and lightning-fast track star. Decades later, after a hip replacement and a few too many trips to the cookie jar, his grandchildren thought the idea of PopPop sprinting strained credulity. They also chuckled that the man who couldn’t unlock his iPhone endowed the school’s Kermes Technology Fellowship. But such was his deep and abiding commitment to the Fairest College. Nothing made him happier than attending his grandson RJ Kermes’ 2016 graduation.

Following Amherst, Ken enlisted in the Navy, where he flew A-1 Skyraiders off the carrier Independence, successfully completing 200 takeoffs, 199 landings and one unplanned parachute ride into the Mediterranean. In 1961, Ken began a business career that took him across the country and around the world. He held senior leadership positions at Monsanto, Ralston Purina, Black & Decker and SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals. Eventually, Ken “retired” to Rhode Island, where he chaired the board of the local hospital, helped lead the University of Rhode Island and lent his time and talents to organizations too numerous to name.

On a warm, sunny day this fall, Ken’s friends and family gathered at his favorite beach. After an uplifting ceremony honoring a life well lived, those in attendance recessed while “A Hymn to Amherst” played. Somewhere above, Ken was humming along out of tune.

RJ Kermes ’16