Kenneth T. Wilburn

March 21, 1943March 10, 2016

Dr. Kenneth Tarvan Wilburn of Neptune Beach, Florida died on March 10, 2016. Ken was born in Chattanooga, TN on March 21, 1943 to Joseph and Rena Wilburn. He graduated from Central High School in Chattanooga where he was a member of the high school concert, marching & swing bands. He completed his bachelor’s degree with a major in instrumental music in 1965 at Tennessee Technological University where he was also a member of the concert, marching & swing bands. In 1969 he finished his Master’s degree in instrumental music at the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music, University of Memphis.

Ken moved to Jacksonville in the mid-1960s where he we was the Alternate Trombonist, Jacksonville Symphonic Orchestra and also a Tenor, St. Johns’ Cathedral Choir. During this time Ken was the director of several school bands including Davis Junior High School, Fletcher and Wolfson High Schools. He was also a music teacher for several public schools in Jacksonville and Tennessee. While working on his Master’s degree he was the band director at Ooltewah High School and a member of the Beal Street Blues Band in Memphis. As he moved on with his music career he was the Director of the Amelia Arts Academy Jazz Collection in Fernandina Beach and the Leader/Founder, Classics Jazz-Swing Quartet, Neptune Beach, FL.

In addition to being a consummate musician, Dr. Wilburn had over 45 years of experience in the educational system. He was the principal for several local schools including Woodland Acres Elementary School and Wolfson Senior High School and the Supervisor of the Research and Evaluation Department, Duval County Public Schools. As he moved forward to work on his doctoral degree he was the Principal of the University Laboratory School at the University of Northern Colorado and the Developmental Research School at Florida State University. While at FSU, Dr. Wilburn completed his doctorate in educational management systems and program evaluation. He spent several years on the faculty at the University of Northern Colorado and three years on the faculty at Johns Hopkins University. He returned to Jacksonville to join the educational leadership faculty at UNF where he served in both faculty and administrative positions. While at UNF he was one of the key founding faculty in the development of the educational leadership doctoral degree and made contributions to the development of the Institute for Values, Community, and Leadership. He was also a senior evaluator with Health-Tech Consultants, Inc. doing program evaluation for school districts, healthcare organizations, and community agencies. He retired from UNF after 32 years with department chairperson emeritus status. Dr. Wilburn touched many lives with both his music as well as his leadership.

Ken loved life and was an avid golfer, tennis player, and ran several marathons. He loved boating and was a competitive sailor. He also loved his motorcycles and had one from the time he was 14 until age 64 when he decided it was time to try something else.

Ken’s main love and focus was always his family. Left to cherish and honor his memory are his wife, Sharon, sons Jason (Helena, granddaughters Anna and Sara); Dax (Angel, Brianna and Erin), brother Jerry (Lynda), nephew David (Ai and Renka), cousin Lanar (Jean, Lynne, Jesse and Blake), close family friend Dale and long time family friend Barbara and son Shea.

Services will be held at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral on Saturday, March 19th at 1:00 PM. Following the services there will be a reception with music. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Music Program at St. John’s Cathedral, 256 E. Church Street Jacksonville, FL 32202. Funeral arrangements have been placed in the care of Hardage-Giddens Beaches Chapel at 1701 Beach Blvd, Jacksonville Beach, FL. Online condolences may be made at


  • Memorial Service

    Saturday, March 19, 2016


Kenneth T. Wilburn

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Sheri Vandenburg Futrell

May 3, 2016

As I sit on the bleachers at a Fletcher Sr High, Ken Wilburn came into my mind. He was my Chorus teacher in 1969 at Fletcher. I googled him and discovered that I was 2 months late in expressing my appreciation to him. So I will express my love and caring for that precious man to the ones he loved most, his family. I will always cherish my memories as a freshman singer, and his guidance to overcome fear of individual performance. So sorry for your loss. God bless you. Sheri Vandenburg Futrel, Ph. D.

March 29, 2016

Sorry to learn of this. I know Ken will be missed by a lot of people. I knew him at Tennessee Tech as was in bands with him there.

Lynn Huffstetler

March 26, 2016


We just learned about Ken and are so very sorry for your loss and that of your family. We have such positive memories of Ken, who was always ready to share stories and good cheer. He and his band played with gusto at our wedding party in 1987! He will be remembered with great fondness. Take good care---

Marianne and Lehman Barnes

March 21, 2016

I'm so saddened to hear of Dr. Wilburn's death. I met him through work on a grant project and found we both shared a love for music, especially the saxophone. The world is losing too many of it's shining stars. We've definitely lost one of those stars with his passing. - Karen Mullis

charles toney

March 19, 2016

Dearest cousin, I am so very sorry to learn of Ken's passing. I know you and he had a true love story and I am thinking of you, Jason and Dax. My deepest sympathy and I love you, Sharon.

March 19, 2016

"Sorry to hear of Ken's death. We were friends in high school and roomed together for part of our time at TN Tech. Ken and his dad were instrumental in getting me enrolled and getting me a scholarship at Tech. I'm forever grateful for Ken and what he did for me. We laughed a lot together and enjoyed great fellowship with all our friends at Tech. He will be missed by all.

Gene North (Morristown. TN.)

March 19, 2016

I am deeply saddened to learn of Ken's death. I read his obituary with wonder and awe not realizing, how multitalented he was. I valued him as a colleague for over 30 years at UNF and I will miss him. Chris Rasche

Tony Bell

March 18, 2016

I knew Ken for several years,both as a customer and friend.We shared a love of dixieland jazz and British cars,he loved Jaguars.We found out we had both married Arabic ladies when we met downtown dressed in Tuxedos for an Arabic convention!Ken was a great guy with a wonderful wife and family.Our hearts go out to you all with his passing,we will pray with you Saturday,God bless you all.

Ray Booth

March 18, 2016

I am writing on behalf of the many students who were touched by Ken's life when he was band director at Wolfson Sr. High School. As I have spread the news of his passing, I have heard many fond memories of those days, memories brightened by Ken's involvement in our teen years. Ken was an extremely bright and energetic young teacher, he felt tremendous passion for music and for teaching, and he was an example to all.

He was kind to us in so many ways. One majorette said that he always walked beside her in parades because he knew she had asthma. Another, who was a mediocre musician in high school, said Ken always encouraged him to continue and, in fact, that student went on to have a career in music. Ken helped others obtain music scholarships. When I made an important (and very bad) decision about my education, Ken was the only teacher who came to me to talk about whether I had made a wise decision.

I also knew Ken when we both attended FSU and he helped me to mature at a time when I certainly needed help. In the past ten years, I have volunteered time with teens and Ken has been the role model for how I interact with them in a positive way.

Although I had not seen Ken in approximately 30 years, I am still saddened by his passing. It is reassuring to know that he found happiness and peace in his life. Ken's legacy lives in each of us as we are better people for having known him. Rest in peace, dear friend.

Jack Freeman

March 17, 2016

Sharon, Please know my thought will be with you and your family during these sad times. Ken was a room mate and great friend from college days. I regret I cannot attedn the service but his legacy should ease some of the sorrow.
Jack Freeman