In memoriam: Kenneth E. Quinn Jr. (1960-2020)

Ken Quinn

Fermilab employee Kenneth “Ken” Quinn, 60 years young, died suddenly on Thursday, Sept. 3. He leaves behind people from all across the country who dearly loved and admired him, who will miss his acerbic wit and wisdom, and who were changed for the better for having known him.

Ken is survived — and will be forever missed and loved — by his wife, Sarah, of Geneva.

He is also survived by his loving parents, Kenneth and Mary Quinn; three children: Ryan, Christopher and Aran; daughter-in-law Heather and granddaughter Maia.; son-in-law Zachary Mooney and stepsons Benton and Jonathan Pellet; his brother, Clyde, and niece Jessica. Strewn all over the New England states are many in-laws who loved Ken — and his barbecue ribs. And throughout many states in the country, Ken is survived by aunts, uncles, cousins, and dear friends.

Second only to his love of his family, was Ken’s love for science, computers, and physics. He spent 20 years as an electrical engineer with Fermilab. He started as a technician in the Proton Source Department in 1999, initially working on maintaining and upgrading the linear accelerator. After getting dual electrical engineering and computer engineering degrees from Illinois Institute of Technology in 2006, he transferred to the Electrical Engineering Support Department, where he worked on new accelerator technology. He was the lead engineer on the lithium lens and pulsed-magnet power supplies, and the team’s innovative design was granted a patent in August 2020. He was leading the design of the LBNF horn power supply, which will produce 300 kA of peak pulsed current. These systems are critical to future scientific research at Fermilab.

Prior to his work at Fermilab, Ken worked at Commonwealth Edison in Illinois and for Florida Power & Light’s Turkey Point nuclear power plant in Miami. He served honorably in the U.S. Navy from 1979-87 as a nuclear reactor operator.

A personal note from one of the writers of this remembrance (Trevor Butler): I worked with Ken for over 10 years in the Linac Group, where we developed a great friendship while working together on upgrades to the accelerator. He had a passion for electronics, for building his own computers, and for working collaboratively on many electrical projects across the Accelerator Division. Even though he valued engineering and took pride in his team’s technical advancements to Fermilab’s scientific program, these great accomplishments will still pale in comparison into the impact his life had on others around him. He will be greatly missed, both as a co-worker and as a friend.

A personal note from Chris Jensen: I was Ken’s supervisor the last three years and worked with him on several projects over the last five. Ken and I talked about more than work. He would bring up a comment on a book he had read, a new beer he had tasted or what his family was doing. He was not only passionate about bettering humankind through engineering and science, but also compassionate to individuals.

Ken loved the outdoors, going to concerts and, most especially, cooking for those he loved. He lived life to the fullest. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Ken’s name to the Morton Arboretum, one of his favorite places in Illinois. Please mention Ken Quinn’s name in the field provided. Sarah is also planning to dedicate a bench in his name. A celebration of his life will be planned for spring 2021 at the arboretum.

Read Quinn’s obituary.

Chris Jensen is a senior principal electrical engineer and the Electrical Engineering Support Department head.

Trevor Butler is a senior electrical engineer in the Proton Source Department Linac Group.