Obituary: Ken Brown

Birkbeck Network Services Analyst

Birkbeck was saddened to learn of the death of Ken Brown, who passed away on Monday 19 May 2014.

Dave Willcox, IT Infrastructure Manager, writes: “Ken joined the College as an employee in 2000 after 14 years working for an oil company at Canary Wharf. He joined as System and Networking Specialist which became Network Services Analyst a few years later, a title he never really liked, but was unable to suggest anything more suitable. It meant that Ken had a finger in lots of pies surrounding the support of the IT infrastructure, including the electronic mail systems and associated services, Unix systems, integration between systems, and system and network security.

“Ken implemented the first eduroam service at Birkbeck, now used by thousands of people a week, and the integration of the Gmail service, providing student email since 2010. More recently he was working on the integration of authentication and identity management systems, which went against the grain a little, as although the programming required was something Ken enjoyed, Ken was an old school coder and much preferred line based commands and a keyboard, than a GUI (Graphical User Interface) and a mouse.

“When he joined, Ken already knew the college well as he was taking a Biological Sciences BSc starting in 1997, and was an enthusiastic supporter of Birkbeck’s mission. As a part-time student here he obtained a 1st class BSc Hons in Biological Sciences in 2001, and MSc with distinction in Bioinformatics in 2005.  While a student Ken appeared in Birkbeck’s University Challenge team in 1999 which narrowly lost in the quarter finals to the eventual winner.  He had also been a member of Durham’s winning team in 1977, which meant that for a while he had more appearances on the show than anyone other than the host. He did like a quiz, any quiz, and would join in with anything, whether the departmental Christmas quizzes or televised quiz shows.

“For us, in addition to his technical expertise and experience, we’ll remember Ken’s aversion to mornings and preference to working until the small hours. Ken would always arrive late for meetings, and then undertake complex multi-coloured doodling, particularly before the advent of the iPad. This didn’t mean he wasn’t engaged - Ken could be guaranteed to contribute, hold his own in a discussion and even unnerve suppliers or consultants. Others will remember Ken from the Birkbeck bar, in trademark black t-shirt and pint in hand, sometimes with his daughter Abigail. The word used most frequently by those speaking about Ken was that he was always cheerful, and that, and the positivity with which he approached the threat and then reality of cancer is an abiding memory.

“Probably less well known was that Ken was a qualified Church of England Reader for his local group of churches for the last 10 years. He didn’t wear his faith on his sleeve, but for those of us who visited Ken during his fast decline as cancer took hold, we were encouraged that Ken was able to take comfort from his faith.

“Cheers Ken. Our thoughts are with Abigail and Ken’s mother, brother, sister and their families.”