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Emeritus faculty member Kenneth Wilkens dies

By Kari VanDerVeen
December 14, 2012

Professor Emeritus of Speech-Theater Kenneth Wilkens, 91, died December 14 at the Care Center of the Northfield Retirement Community.

Wilkens came to St. Olaf College in 1947 and taught for nearly a decade before leaving for the University of Texas at Austin in 1956. He returned to St. Olaf two years later, and remained a part of the college's faculty until his retirement in 1986.

During his nearly 40 years at St. Olaf, Wilkens taught thousands of students about the value of strong public speaking skills and coached hundreds in national speech competitions. He also served as chair of the Speech-Theater Department and of the Fine Arts Division, and was the college's director of forensics.

Wilkens was involved in the creation of the Speech Association of Minnesota and was active in the Minnesota YMCA Youth in Government organization, earning awards from both organizations for his work. He also played a part in the development of the national speech honorary society, Pi Kappa Delta.

Wilkens earned his bachelor's degree from Minnesota State University Moorhead and both his master's and doctorate degrees from Northwestern University.

Services will be held Friday, December 21, at 2 p.m. at St. John's Lutheran Church in Northfield. Visitation will be held Thursday, December 20, from 4 to 7 p.m. at Benson & Langehough Funeral Home and will continue at the church Friday one hour prior to the service.

Read Wilkens's obituary.

Contact Kari VanDerVeen at 507-786-3970 or