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Thomas Ray Hensley Obituary

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Thomas Ray Hensley

Kent, OH

August 19, 1943 - April 7, 2021

Thomas Ray Hensley Obituary

Dr. Thomas Ray Hensley, 77, of Kent, Ohio, passed away peacefully on April 7, 2021 after a lengthy and courageous battle with Parkinson’s Disease.

Tom was born on August 19, 1943 to Ada and Earl Hensley in Atlantic, Iowa. After graduating from Simpson College in 1965, he went on to earn his PhD at The University of Iowa in 1969. Later that year, Tom joined the Kent State University political science department as a full-time professor, where he inspired countless students and colleagues during his 40-year career. “Dr. Tom,” as he was known by his many adoring students, was an expert on constitutional law, and devoted much of his academic career to the 1970 Kent State May 4th Incident, publishing four books and numerous articles on the topic. He was the recipient of many awards during his time at Kent State, including the Distinguished Teaching Award, the President’s Medal, and Ohio Teacher of the Year. 

Dr. Tom was the epitome of kindness; he was the master of not sweating the small stuff, often reminding others that “it’s all small stuff.” In addition to a tremendous scholar and teacher, he was an inspirational little league coach for his three children, a compassionate animal lover, and a phenomenal athlete. He enjoyed the simple things in life with an optimism that was both inspiring and rare. 

Anyone who knew Tom knew that he was the most loving father, grandfather and husband a family could ask for. Tom was preceded in death by his parents, Ada and Earl Hensley. He is survived by his wife, Jane; sons Paul (Michele) and Brad (Kristin) Hensley; daughter Sarah Hilliard (Elias); grandchildren Gunnar, Mia, Maxwell, Kendall, Jackson and Hudson Hensley; brother Dick Hensley (Carol); nephews Michael (Kelly), Craig (Terry), Todd (Loan) and David (Laura) Hensley; and beloved cat, Emmett. 

Tom’s legacy and his memory will live on through his family and the many lives he enriched. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to The Portage County Animal Protective League, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, or the Dr. Tom Hensley Endowed Scholarship Fund. You can make a scholarship gift online at, or if you prefer to send a check, make the check payable to the Kent State University Foundation and mail it, along with a note including your name, address, phone number and indication that your donation is to be applied to the Dr. Tom Hensley Endowed Scholarship Fund. This can be mailed to Kent State University Foundation, 350 S. Lincoln Street, Kent, Ohio 44240.

A public Celebration of Life will be held at Kent State University at a future date to honor and celebrate the life of this incredible man. For more information, please visit


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Event information can be found on the Official Obituary of Thomas Ray Hensley.