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Campus mourns death of Kenneth Newman following accident

April 19, 2013 By Käri Knutson

Working hard came naturally to Kenneth Newman.

“He never shied away from getting a job done, no matter how difficult, no matter how dirty, no matter how complex,” says Faramarz Vakili, director of campus sustainability operations and associate director of the Physical Plant at UW–Madison. “He was a smart and hardworking man.”

Photo: Kenneth Newman


Sadly, Newman, 63, an instrument maker with the Physical Plant Machine Shop, died Tuesday, April 16 when a loading dock lift fell on him while he was conducting repairs on the unit at the Art Lofts on North Frances Street.

Colleagues remember his commitment to the university. As an instrument maker, Newman was part of a team responsible for repairing equipment and often making parts.

“He was instrumental in building parts for and repairing different pieces of equipment, whether it was working on more detailed scientific equipment or maybe something that was older and needed a part made for it,” says Rob Lamppa, director of the Physical Plant. “He was a highly skilled and valuable part of our team.”

Newman started at the UW in 1989 and became someone co-workers could count on.

“This is a tightknit family and losing Ken is a very sad reality for our organization,” Vakili says. “Emotionally and mentally, this will stay with us for many, many years to come. Hopefully we can learn from the reality that even the most experienced are not immune to having accidents happen to them.”

Newman had efficiently and effectively completed over 10,000 work orders during his 24 years with the department.

“This tragic loss of a valued co-worker is a shock to us all, and a reminder of just how quickly things can change in people’s lives,” Lamppa says.

“This is a tightknit family and losing Ken is a very sad reality for our organization. Emotionally and mentally, this will stay with us for many, many years to come.”

Faramarz Vakili

There are approximately 900 employees at the Physical Plant, all of whom help keep the university running.

“I deeply value our employees and the service they provide to the university and the State of Wisconsin,” says Interim Chancellor David Ward. “We’re keeping his family, friends and campus colleagues in our thoughts.”

UW-Madison Police are investigating the accident.

Outside of work, Newman enjoyed gardening, working on cars and walking through town with his ever-present canine companion, Scout. He was also actively involved in the Audi Badger Chapter, helping organize events and acting as a driving instructor during Audi Safety Schools.

He is survived by his wife, Deborah-Lee; daughters, Victoria and Tiffany; grandson, Arron; mother, Dorothea “Bobbie”; and brother, Donald. He was preceded in death by his father, Harold Newman.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Monday, April 22, at Hooverson Funeral Home, 251 Water St., Sauk City, with Rabbi Andrea Steinberger of Hillel Foundation officiating.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be given to Shelter from the Storm Animal Rescue in Madison.