Kenneth Conrow

ConrowKenneth Conrow, 86, on March 18, 2019, at Leonardville Nursing Home in Leonardville, Kans., from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. Ken was born on January 22, 1933, in Philadelphia, Pa., to Frances and Maurice Conrow, and lived his early life in Riverton, N.J. He was proud of his Quaker heritage and his attendance at Quaker schools: Westfield Friends School, Moorestown Friends School, and Swarthmore College, where he met his future wife, Margaret Meckes, called Marka. He belonged to Phi Beta Kappa and graduated from Swarthmore with honors in 1954.

He and Marka married in a Quaker ceremony in 1955. In 1957 he earned a doctorate in organic chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, where he was introduced to the early ILLIAC computer and computer science. After four years at the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1961 he joined the Kansas State University (KSU) Chemistry Department in Manhattan, Kans. Although he was an accomplished chemist with many publications, he became more interested in computer science and joined the new Kansas State Department of Computer Science in 1971. He developed several computer programs, the most famous of which was Neater2, a reformatting program that was leased through the KSU Research Foundation, with Ron Smith. Ken moved full-time to Computer Services in 1974.

He and Marka were members of Manhattan (Kans.) Meeting, and they regularly attended the Friends General Conference Gatherings. They enjoyed their home and neighbors on Grandview Terrace in Manhattan, Kans., where they lived for 47 years. They took many family trips; traveled to London, Wales, and Alaska; had a sailing adventure in Maine; and took a Danube River tour.

He was a member and repeated Commodore of the Blue Valley Yacht Club and enjoyed many Sundays and other times sailing and ice skating on Tuttle Creek Lake. He also enjoyed long bike rides and rode his bicycle to work. An avid stamp collector from a young age, he had an extensive collection. He retired from KSU in 1998, when he was interim head of Computer and Network Services. After retirement, he spent a lot of time on what he called mathematical recreation, exploring sequences of prime numbers and pursuing a theory of proving the Collatz Conjecture, corresponding with other enthusiasts.

Ken was preceded in death by his parents and a younger brother, David, who died as a child. He is survived by his wife, Margaret Meckes Conrow, called Marka; three children, Janet Palo-Jackson (Steve), Ann Simmons, and Joyce Conrow (Rob Long); eight grandchildren, including Helen Simmons, whom he and Marka fostered as a daughter and who lived with them most of her life; a sister, Mary Coelho; and nephews and nieces. Ken has been put to his final rest in a green burial at Heartland Prairie Cemetery in Salina, Kans.

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