Ken South considers himself one of the first of the Baby Boomers; he was born in December of 1945, shortly before the official start date of 1/1/1946 for that generation.
His childhood years were spent in Mount Vernon, New York, where he was raised a Roman Catholic as his parents were in a “mixed marriage”, his mother being Catholic and father Presbyterian. He remembers well his first holy communion and confirmation in the parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. He spent his teen years in Levittown, New York, active in Boy Scouts--his dad was the scoutmaster of his troop. He remained active in the Catholic Church, although his parents and sister were not active churchgoers. From his junior year of high school and for the next ten years, he spent each summer on the staff of the Onteora Scout Reservation in Livingston Manor, New York, acquiring friendships which have lasted to the present day.
It was during his sophomore year at Salem College (West Virginia) that he had his first sexual encounter with John, another gay man. Also during that time, he met Denny, very straight yet supportive guy, a fellow musician in the school band who also happened to be a “supply preacher” with the United Methodist Church. Denny served seven small churches in southern Ohio each Sunday. So Ken started traveling with him on weekends and encountered evangelical Christians for the first time in his life. There was no such thing as a "week of revival" at Our Lady of Mount Carmel! On October the 16th, 1967, at an altar of prayer in a small country church in Philippi, West Virginia, Ken “gave his heart to the Lord.” The members of the church were overcome with joy at the idea of saving a Catholic! Ken graduated with degrees in music education and nonprofit management from the American Humanics Foundation in June of 1969. During this time Ken decided to give up his thoughts of being an executive with The Boy Scouts of America and instead to become a minister in the United Methodist Church.
Following his conversion and rebaptism in the United Methodist Church, Ken met a pivotal character in his life. Dr. Marion Harvey was the senior pastor of the First Methodist Church in Akron, Ohio where he served for 23 years. He was also on the Board of Directors of Salem College and the newly-formed Methodist Theological School of Ohio (Methesco). A book should be written about Dr. Harvey who was one of those “larger than life” characters. When Ken told Dr. Harvey that he was thinking of going to seminary, without a clue of how or where to go, Dr. Harvey was immediately on the phone to the president of Methesco, the Rev. John Dickhaut, informing him that Ken was to be a new student starting in the fall, and that was that!
Ken was part of a small group of guys who came out at Methesco where he earned an M.Div. degree in June of 1972 with a year’s study at New College of the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. It was an exciting time--besides individuals coming out, seminars and workshops on gay and lesbian issues took place on a regular basis. At the time, Ken was attached to the West Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church, Bishop Fred Wertz, presiding. Also in June of 1972, while attending the annual meeting of the West Virginia Conference, he was defrocked as well as discharged from the Navy Chaplaincy Corps. He was subsequently ordained by the United Church of Christ on his birthday, December 16th, 1972, in Altoona, Pennsylvania.
Ken has spent his entire professional life working in the nonprofit field. His career has included work in three areas of interest: the interfaith community, the AIDS community and the aging community.
Ken was the founder of the Connecticut Conference Chapter of the United Church of Christ LGBT Coalition, a founding board member of MCC Hartford and co-founder of the Hartford Gay & Lesbian Health Collective. He has worked with several faith-based organizations including Bread for the World, Church World Service and the Christian Activities Council of the United Church of Christ.
Ken’s experiences since 1984 within the AIDS epidemic included his work as staff with AID Atlanta, the AIDS National Interfaith Network, AIDS Action, the AIDS Institute of KOBA Associates, the President’s Commission on the AIDS Epidemic, and his last full-time position as the Director of Credentialing Programs at the American Academy of HIV Medicine.
Experience in the GLBT aging world included his time as co-founder of Horace Bushnell Congregate Homes, aging coordinator at the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and co-authorship in 2001 of “Outing Age: Public Policy Issues Affecting GLBT Elders.” He served on the national board the LGBT Aging Issues Network of the American Society on Aging, SAGE Metro-DC and the advisory committee of Senior Health Resources of DC. He was President of the DC chapter of Prime Timers from 2000 to 2016. Just prior to leaving the Academy, he was asked to be a contributor to the Annual Review of Gerontology and Geriatrics,s 2017, volume 37. Chapter 11 is titled: “The Impact of Public Policy on LGBT Aging”.
Ken retired from the American Academy of HIV Medicine in June of 2016 but continues with them as a consultant, managing the annual AAHIVM/Institute for Technology in Health Care HIV Practice Award.
He and his partner Jeff, have been together since 2016, and he has been partnered three times before for a total of twenty years. He lives in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
(This biographical statement provided by Ken South.)
Biography Date: February 2013; rev. July 2019