In Memoriam: Russ Kennedy 1918-2010
When Russell Jordan ‘Russ’ Kennedy, BSc’41, DSc’93, MC, died suddenly last June 4 in Kingston, the words flew. They filled a page in the Whig-Standard, several pages on the Internet, and on July 1 were still being eloquently written by Globe and Mail correspondent Frank B. Edwards. An astute Globe reader commented that Lt. Kennedy’s heroic role in rescuing 2,500 paratroopers in 16-man storm boats at Arnhem was worth not only his Military Cross, but a James Cameron movie. Prof. Ed Watt, a younger Civil Engineering colleague, had some of the other best words those days: “Superb, superb…excellent, a good role model, all the superlatives, and a modest man…a good thinker, a good engineer and well respected teacher.”
Russ had been a tricolour campus figure for half a decade when Queen’s awarded him an honorary DSc. It was actually his first doctorate; his outstanding research and pedagogy (and responsibilities as widowed father of four) had made a PhD time-out impractical. His scholarship was undeniable. As his 1993 citation put it, Russ “pioneered post-war research links with industry, became a nationally honoured specialist in hydraulics and coastal engineering [in his lab on West campus], helped reorganize both Graduate Studies and Alumni Affairs [as first Executive-Director, responsible for the move into Summerhill], sparked a major fund-raising success, and was Vice-Principal [Administration 1970-76].”
As Lt. Col., he had also commanded the COTC 1951-58. He advocated for computing pioneers to get PCs onto Queen’s desks, despite the foot-dragging dinosaurs. He played peace-broker by retaining the Lower Campus playing fields and building a parking garage underneath, also showing both chutzpah and vision by talking the City into letting him dump all that dirt into Lake Ontario and creating that student-loved King St. park that would be a remarkable heritage even if Russ had had no others. Not bad for a farm boy from Dunrobin! In fact, his last great gift to Queen’s was his 146-acre property (tree farm, wetland and river) for use as an engineering field research station. Those at his life celebration were told of his delight in watching the first annual cardboard boat races there.
For that celebration on the afternoon of June 12, the family thought Ban Righ’s Fireside Room would be a fine place. Well, yes and no. As friends from many and diverse connections, Queen’s Forty-Niners, and a fan club of colleagues joined four generations of his family there, the room filled to overflowing. Then stairways and a second room. Fine words of praise and condolence were spoken, and many homey, touching photos were enjoyed, But it was the very attendance of some 400 friends that spoke most clearly of the way Russ Kennedy lived his 92 years.