October 28, 1964 ~ December 11, 2013
"God will not have his work made manifest by cowards."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Our beloved Kenneth Speirs lived life boldly and with passion. Not for him the ordinary or the practical. Life was to be seized and made into an adventure. For his two boys, Kai (10) and Bo (7), he constructed rich experiences and days filled with silliness and joy. For his wife, SanSan Kwan, he built a scaffold of care and love. For his college students, in Beijing, Shanghai, Taipei, New York, LA, and the Bay Area, he created a classroom full of inspiration. For his friends and family, he brought fierce loyalty paired with hilarity and delight. His exuberance and wit were contagious to all who encountered him.
Kenny struck up ebullient conversations with strangers. He was gut-splittingly funny. He was a tough competitor. He always preferred to walk. He was an athlete gorgeous to watch. He was a lifelong runner. He entertained his wanderlust. He doubted himself. He lived with style and always recognized beauty. For Kenny, everything was meaningful. Each written word was an expressive choice. He was a romantic to the core.
Ken was raised in Palos Verdes attending Valmonte, Malaga Cove and Palos Verdes High School. After an undergraduate degree at Boston University and a Masters at Northwestern, Ken earned his PhD in English from New York University
in 1998, writing a dissertation on Herman Melville. Over his professional career he was awarded several NEH grants, other research awards, and a Fulbright.
Ken suffered a heart attack while running the Berkeley Half Marathon on November 24, 2013. He died on December 11, 2013.
Kenneth is survived by his wife, SanSan Kwan, two sons Kai and Bo, his mother, Joan Speirs, two brothers, Garrett and Dan, and their families, and multitudes of friends, colleagues, and students.
Memorial services will be held in Palos Verdes Estates at St. Francis Episcopal Church on January 18 and at a date to be announced on the UC Berkely campus in late January.
In memory of Kenny, tax-deductible donations may be made to the McFarland Family Foundation, which has established a Kenneth Speirs Memorial Fund to support aspiring college students in the humanities: P. O. 176, Los Olivos CA, 93441-0176