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May 15, 2014

Obituary: Allen Kent

kentAllen Kent, Distinguished Service Professor in the School of Information Sciences, died May 1, 2014. He was 92.

Born in New York City, Kent earned a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from the City College of New York and a certificate in metallurgical testing at New York University.

He served the United States military in the Air Force and the Air Documents Research Office during World War II.

Kent advised the Kennedy administration on the creation of a National Information Storage and Retrieval Network. He also worked as a research associate at MIT and taught library science at Case Western Reserve University.

He joined the Pitt faculty in 1963. He was the founding director of the Knowledge Availability Systems Center and established Pitt’s Department of Information Science in 1970.

A pioneer in information science, Kent also served as the director of the Office of Communication Programs before working as associate dean of the School of Library and Information Science, 1982-85, and interim dean, 1985-86.

“He, as always, was most gracious, most patient and most informative,” said Michael Spring, a faculty member in the Department of Information Science and Telecommunications. “The story of his exploits and accomplishments has been well documented by others; what I will remember most was the gracious gentleman who was always thinking about what might be and then working with his colleagues to make that vision reality.”

A noted writer, Kent authored “The Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science,” “The Encyclopedia of Computer Science and Technology” and “The Encyclopedia of Microcomputers.”

“He was an incredibly good teacher,” said James Williams, faculty member emeritus. “He was a visionary but pragmatic. You don’t find many people that have those two aspects together and integrated.”

Williams, a former student and also a colleague of Kent’s at Pitt, credits him with kickstarting his career. Williams twice left Pittsburgh for various job opportunities before returning at Kent’s urging.

“My career without him, I don’t know,” Williams said. “It would’ve gone nowhere. He was just so influential on not just me, but other people’s lives. He really cared about students and he wanted to see them do well.”

As part of the graduate information science and technology program, the Allen Kent Scholarship is awarded each year to a graduate student who makes an outstanding contribution to the program. For information on how to donate to the Allen Kent Scholarship Fund, contact Marci Carothers at

Kent retired from the University in 1992, moving to St. Pete Beach, Fla., before returning to Pittsburgh in 2010.

He is survived by his wife, Rosalind; his four daughters, Merryl Samuels, Jacqueline Maryak, Emily Yeager and Carolyn Newcott; seven grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

—Alex Oltmanns