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Kenneth Jerkins Sr., 68, professor of biology at Morgan State University

Kenneth Francis Jerkins Sr., a popular biology professor at Morgan State University who had been department chairman, academic dean and vice president for academic affairs during his nearly 30 years on the campus, died Saturday of cancer at the University of Maryland Medical Center. He was 68.

Colleagues often called him "a teacher's teacher." He specialized in teaching biology to non-science majors.

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Mary E. Robinson, director of development at Morgan, who studied under Dr. Jerkins in a master's program there in 1968, recalled, "He was so skilled at problem-solving and so understanding. He was sensitive to the needs of individuals, always pushing for the self-enhancement of each student."

Dr. Jerkins' wife, the former Sara Williams of Atlantic City, N.J., called him a gentle man but also said he was "very witty."

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At the time of his appointment as academic dean in 1972, King V. Cheek, then Morgan's president, referred to Dr. Jerkins' "excellent background and training" and added that "above all, he's respected by the faculty."

He was born in Norfolk, Va., and grew up in Elizabeth City, N.C. He completed his undergraduate education at Xavier University in New Orleans and received master's degrees from North Carolina Central University and Ohio State University before earning his Ph.D. at Purdue University in 1963.

During the Korean War, he was a Marine corporal, serving about two years in Korea.

His teaching career included experience in the high school classroom as well as in front of undergraduate and graduate students on university campuses.

Before joining Morgan's faculty in 1965, he taught at Brawley High School in Scotland Neck, N.C.; at Purdue in Lafayette, Ind.; and at Tennessee State University, where he was both a professor and chairman of the department of science education.

Dr. Jerkins, who lived in the Roland Park section of Baltimore, had been active in the Boy Scouts of America and remained an interested adult adviser. In 1990, he returned to North Carolina to attend a 50th reunion celebration of Boy Scout Troop 89, the first all-black troop in that state.

As an avid sports fan, he coached football at Brawley High School. Later, he held Baltimore Colts season tickets and regularly attended the games of Morgan's Golden Bears. He was a Morgan faculty representative and past president of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

Numerous professional and social organizations of which he was an active member included the National Science Teachers Association, Phi Delta Kappa Society, National Biology Teachers Association and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.

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He had long served as a consultant to the Educational Testing Service and the Hypertension Research Program of the National Institutes of Health at Howard University.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 11 a.m. tomorrow at St. Matthew's Roman Catholic Church, Loch Raven Boulevard at Woodbourne Avenue, where he was a member. Before the Mass, the family will receive friends at the church, beginning at 10 a.m.

Other survivors include three children from his previous marriage to Annie Laurie Savage Jerkins, who died in 1974. They are two daughters, Ann A. Jerkins of Tucson, Ariz., and Jayne A. Jerkins of Washington, D.C., and a son, Kenneth F. Jerkins Jr. of Baltimore. Also surviving is a stepdaughter, Karen Giles Williamson of Silver Spring; two grandsons; and a granddaughter.

Memorial donations may be made to the University of Maryland Medical Center for cancer research; or to the Kenneth F. Jerkins Endowed Scholarship Fund, Morgan State University Foundation, Room 20, 1700 E. Cold Spring Lane, Baltimore 21239.


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