A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 26 at the Peck House for University of Southern Mississippi Professor Kenneth Vance Watson. The Peck House, which is part of the Southern Miss campus, is located at 3601 Pearl St.
Dr. Watson died of heart failure at the age of 60 on Jan 18. He was an associate professor in the Department of English in the College of Arts and Letters and an expert on 19th century British literature, especially Romanticism. He also taught courses on the history of literary criticism, critical theory, and twentieth-century literature.
Born Oct. 4, 1952 in Bellows Falls, Vermont, Watson attended the prestigious Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Massachusetts, and upon graduation, received his undergraduate degree from Kenyon College. He earned his master’s degree from the University of Vermont, and completed his doctoral degree in English at Duke University.
Watson came to Hattiesburg in 1986 when he joined the English Department at Southern Miss. For a number of years, he served as the Associate Editor of the Southern Quarterly and recently assisted Dr. Douglas B. Chambers with editing, The Past Is Not Dead: Essays from the Southern Quarterly (University Press of Mississippi, 2012). He also served as a translator for Jean Carlos Galeano’s Folktales of the Amazon (Libraries Unlimited, 2009) and published essays on the Romantic poets.
Watson enjoyed reciting from memory the poetry of Coleridge, Wordsworth, Byron, Keats, Eliot, and Pound. He also enjoyed the life of the mind and relished the opportunity to engage students, friends, and colleagues in discussing his love of literature.
Over the course of his teaching career, Watson mentored and fostered a number of scholars. Students and faculty recall a dedicated teacher and advisor, and all agree that the English Department has suffered a tragic loss. An inspiration to many, Watson leaves behind a legacy of students who have gone on to successful careers in law, academia, and the arts. Many of these student-teacher relationships have evolved into friendships that have spanned decades.
Preceded in death by his father, John Watson, Watson is survived by his son, Caleb Watson, and his mother, Priscilla Watson, as well as his sister, Virginia Watson, and her two daughters, Abby and Suzanne.
In lieu of flowers, family and friends may donate to a memorial scholarship by contacting the English Department, 601.266.4320.