In Memoriam: Gradwohl Laureate and Distinguished Fellow Kenneth S. Field, MBA

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“It is time to contemplate the future and to adapt to it. The world in which the forensic science profession operates and the Academy exists is changing rapidly. Great technological advances have been made and are in the making … If the Academy is to persevere, it, too, must change with the times, for such change is the life blood of an enduring service organization.”

~ Kenneth S. Field, 1997


It is with great fondness that we remember former AAFS Executive Director and good friend, Kenneth S. Field, who passed away August 30 in Colorado Springs, CO, at the age of 100. Ken was considered a visionary and strategist, not only in the day-to-day affairs of AAFS but in all aspects of his life. Ken’s dearest qualities included his generosity and encouragement of others to reach out and make a difference in the future of AAFS. He was a true mentor, always a gentleman, and a fabulous storyteller.

Ken began his service to the Academy and to the Forensic Sciences Foundation (FSF) in the early 1970s as a volunteer who went above and beyond that which was expected. As a professional leader in research and education activities, Ken provided wise counsel to many. He demonstrated gracious cooperation and a dedicated concern about the Academy’s future.

Ken’s first contact with AAFS was as a plenary session speaker on research in his role as Director of Public Safety Research at Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, CA. In 1971, he was accepted into the Academy’s membership as a Provisional Member in the General Section after which he served as a section officer. Between his stints as a volunteer, Ken served as Executive Director of both AAFS and FSF on two separate occasions—from 1973 to 1976 in Rockville, MD, when he retired, and from 1979 until 1984 in Colorado Springs, when he again retired. His activities between 1973 and 1976 included research on assessment, the establishment of certification, and proficiency testing in the forensic sciences. The publications he authored, edited or published through the Foundation during that timeframe included “Crime Laboratory Forum, the “FSF Career Brochure (1st edition),” and the “Death Investigation and Examination Project Report.”

Ken served as Chair of the FSF and was a Trustee from 1984 through 1992. His service continued as chair of several key AAFS committees, including the Strategic Planning Committee, the Definition of Forensic Science Committee, the Bylaws Committee, and the History of the Academy Committee. In addition to serving on the JFS Editorial Board for many years, Ken was the editor and main contributor of the “History of the Academy” book published in 1998 in honor of the Academy’s 50th Anniversary.

Ken was one of the first five recipients of the AAFS Distinguished Fellow Award in 1990. During the 1997 Annual Meeting in New York City, he was bestowed with the Academy’s most prestigious honor, the Gradwohl Medallion, in recognition of his outstanding service, contribution, leadership, and vision.

An interview with Ken was conducted in 2016 when he was 98 years old during which he recalled in detail Dr. RBH Gradwohl’s vision for the Academy in 1948. You may access a short video of the interview here that was presented as part of the AAFS Plenary Session in 2017.

Ken will be sadly missed by those whose lives he influenced through his wit, his storytelling, his graciousness, and his very specific recipe for a “Champagne Cocktail.”