Tom Kennedy, September 25, 1937~January 26, 2017

Tom Kennedy always considered himself a lucky man–lucky in lineage, lucky in love, lucky in labor, and lucky in the loyalty of a lot of good friends. He was born 25 September 1937 in Dayton, Ohio, the second of three sons of Harry Lawrence and Adlyn Cummins Kennedy. He was raised in an Irish-American tribe since most of his parents’ close friends were resolutely Irish, faithfully Catholic and staunchly Democrat. His childhood was nearly idyllic, if insufficiently touched with the hard realities of a relentless world. From the beginning, Tom was well-educated, in so far as he was willing to cooperate, in good Catholic institutions, where he learned to love history and literature but, alas, to dislike, beyond arithmetic, all things connected with mathematics, a considerable weakness. Perhaps more important, he was taught at home and in school to adhere to strict ethical standards (he sometimes failed to fully embrace) and, more successfully, to treat all human beings with dignity and respect. May it go before his parents and his teachers.

After graduating from the University of Dayton, he served for twenty-five months, mostly in Germany, as a fresh-faced officer in the 14th Armored Cavalry Regiment at the height of the Cold War. There he learned about many things, wonderful and dreadful, he had not encountered in his previously sheltered life. During military service he met a host of fine and talented friends, learned the wonders of a foreign culture and people, suffered the throes of an ultimately unrequited love affair and almost became a serious young man. It was a bracing and maturing experience, never marked, God and good luck be thanked, by the need to fire a weapon in anger or fear at another human being.

Tom’s luck remained intact when, wandering about Europe after his release from the Army, he had a pre-arranged meeting in Stuttgart with a hometown girl, Mary Lynn Goecke, and began the fun and adventure that started as a lark and ended as a life-long attachment. Ahh, he was an undeservingly fortunate creature. While he was teaching literature and learning grammar, finally, at a fortuitously acquired position at a marvelous high school in West Carrollton, Ohio, Tom and Mary were married less than a year after their marvelous German fling. After this glorious coupling, he began to acquire higher education, and she began having babies. The first of these, Maura Ann, was born in Arizona where Tom received a Masters degree, the next two (Padraic and Eamon) in Columbia, South Carolina where he earned a Ph.D. Their fourth precious babe (Caitlin) was born in Fayetteville, Arkansas where Tom attained employment and, good fortune proceeding, they afterward lived together in mostly blissful wedlock, mostly because Mary was usually more patient if not more loving than he.

During nearly forty years of teaching in the History Department at the University of Arkansas, Tom met a vast array of sometimes brilliant, often fascinating people many of whom, fortune ever-smiling, became close and loving friends. He loved teaching, more perhaps than some of his students loved learning, but in that cast of thousands, there were some he never forgot and a few who gained high places in the world of men and women. Once the children were all in school, Mary joined the staff of the Arkansas Archeological Survey, eventually serving two decades as editor of Survey Publications. Having discovered the attractions of research and having learned to write at least moderately lucid prose, Tom began to publish scholarly articles and eventually books, many of which examined Quakers and Quakerism in Britain and the United States.  None, alas, became best sellers, but all were labors of love.  His scholarly pursuits led him to become an active participant and President of the Western Conference on British Studies, and to become President of the Friends Historical Society in London.

Tom, Mary and all four children lived in London for six months, an exciting, educational and usually happy embracing with England and English people. Later, when, luck continuing, he was appointed T. Wister Brown Fellow at Haverford College, Eamon and Cait accompanied their parents to the Philadelphia suburbs; easy for the elders, not always for young teenagers, but all survived another learning experience.  The last overseas residence for Tom and Mary Lynn was in Wolfson College, University of Cambridge.  It proved to be a glorious year and, especially for him, a home away from home while he undertook research trips throughout the British Isles.

While research, teaching, travel, and family demanded much of his attention, Tom always found time for the sporting life: born a Cincinnati Red, educated as a Dayton Flyer, and ripened as an Arkansas Razorback, his loyalties were never in question.  Not content to observe the contests on fields and courts, Tom relished the physical challenges of sport, eventually leading the intramural teams of the Department of History to an all-sport trophy at the University of Arkansas.   The careful management of departmental intramural sports was matched by his nurturing of Fayetteville’s soccer program that has provided instruction and competition to generations of the city’s youth.  Sport provided Tom with an outlet that gave full rein to his love of competition, zest for life, and value of teamwork.

Tom loved to sing and dance and write verse, which often accompanied invitations to the famous annual Party, allegedly celebrating the feast of blessed St. Patrick, he and Mary hosted for several decades and hoped that guests savored as much as they enjoyed. It was all in the tradition, as his sainted ancestors proclaimed: “Life is short and you’re a long time dead.”

Tom is survived by his wife and children, his brother Harry and sister-in-law Sangnete, of Fresno, California, his son-in-law Tony Anaya of Cincinnati, Ohio, daughter-in-law Alison Greer of Baltimore, Maryland, son-in-law Ryan Guyton of Fayetteville, and eight beloved grandchildren, Adlyn, Thomas and Matteo of Cincinnati, Jennie and Jared, of Windsor, Colorado, Harry and Iain, of Baltimore, and Anna, of Fayetteville.

There will be a memorial service held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Fayetteville on Saturday, February 11, 2017 at 11a.m.  If desired, in lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made in the form of contributions to any progressive cause.  Tom contributed to them all.

Cremation arrangements by Beard’s Funeral Chapel.



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Condolences (13)

    Don White » 29. Jan, 2017

    It was my privilege to know Tom throughout our many years at the UA. He was a unique character, a scholar, a “wild man” on the basketball court and an all-around good guy. He will be missed.

    Mike Hoffman » 29. Jan, 2017

    I kept hoping it was a different Tom Kennedy when I began reading today’s obituaries
    in the D-G–but it wasn’t. For decades Tom represented the strength of the history department
    at the U of A and the best of the whole university . I am dismayed by his death and
    send his family my sympathy.

    Name » 29. Jan, 2017

    I am shocked and saddened by this terrible news. Tom was a fine man and a great friend. He will be missed. My thoughts are with all his family and his other friends now.

    Conrad Sawyer » 29. Jan, 2017

    I posted the condolence above and missed the Name field.

    Conrad Sawyer » 29. Jan, 2017

    I am shocked and saddened by this terrible news. Tom was a fine man and a great friend. My thoughts are with Mary and the rest of the family at this terrible time. He is missed.

    Tim Buckley » 29. Jan, 2017

    Dr. Kennedy was my favorite professor in college and I tried to take as many of his classes as I could. His ability to put you in the moment of history you were studying was unsurpassed. He was also fond of oral finals, which he said made you think on your feet; I think it had as much to do with his notoriously bad eyesight and grading hand-written exams. After college, I had many spirited encounters with him at the grocery store, the gas station, out walking the neighborhood. We usually talked politics or baseball; we agreed on the former but not the latter (I’m a Cardinal fan). I will miss him a lot.

    Jay River » 29. Jan, 2017

    We wanted to express our sympathy to you and your family this verse encouraging during our time of loss. “Praised be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our trials so that we may be able to comfort others in any sort of trial with the comfort that we receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3,4) Jesus referred to himself to as “the resurrection and the life” at John 11:25. We pray that in the days to come you will be strengthened.


    Name » 29. Jan, 2017

    I so enjoyed getting to know Dr. Kennedy during my time at the U of A in the 1990s. He was encouraging, humble and one of those congenial professors who made graduate students feel welcome in the department. My condolences to his wife and family.

    Amanda Aucoin (PhD 2001) » 29. Jan, 2017

    Missed the name field above

    Jim & Sara Ward » 31. Jan, 2017

    Spankey, Ours thoughts are with you and Tom’s family. We all grieve for our loved ones, but the sun comes up the next day and we travel on our journey forward.

    Jim & Sara

    Richard Cosgrove » 31. Jan, 2017

    May I extend my sympathy to all the Kennedy clan. I knew Tom through our shared interest in British history but our secret passion was discussing the fine points of soccer officiating. Tom was a gentleman in every respect. The British Studies community will miss him.

    Julie Chambers » 02. Feb, 2017

    It turns out that I didn’t know very much about Tom, only that he was wonderful to run into while he was walking the dog. He was always cheerful; and I loved his kind, if not mischievous, eyes and how affectionately he talked about his wife and family. I wish I could have heard some more of those stories!
    I wish you all love, peace, and comfort and hope that we can live as well as he did.

    Judith Filkin hunt » 27. Aug, 2017

    I met Tom, mary and beautiful Maura, when I was a graduate student in South Carolina in 1965
    And remember with enormous pleasure how friendly and delightful they all were. I can’t imagine how dreadful, mary, it must be to be without your wonderful husband and am thinking of you and of your whole family
    Love from