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Kenton G. Forsythe

Kenton ForsytheDied: July 9, 2023

Kenton Forsythe was born July 21, 1944 in Boston, Massachusetts to Ena Ingham and Richard Hanney Forsythe. He didn’t come to our Yale Class of 1966 alone and he didn’t travel far, being one of a dozen classmates from Hopkins Grammar School in New Haven. While at Yale he majored in History and lived at Davenport College. Friends remember Kenton as being reclusive, shy, and soft spoken. In hindsight, one could not predict that “Quiet Ken Forsythe” would achieve world renown in the design and manufacture of professional loudspeakers.

Upon graduation in 1966, Kenton enrolled at UC Berkeley, obtained his master’s degree in City Planning in 1968, and then joined the Boston Redevelopment Authority working under City Planning legend Edward Logue. Although he found working on the “Big Dig” in Boston interesting and challenging, the timeline for completion was too long for him, he needed to see the results of his efforts more quickly. Therefore, although not a musician, he turned to his first love, sound reproduction, an interest that started either (a) according to his obituary, while at UC Berkeley and nurtured in Boston, or (b) according to his mother, when he was about three years old and constantly in front of the family hi-fi, driving her nuts by listening to the same record over and over. In either case, Kenton was completely self-educated in the field, spending hours at the MIT engineering library, studying books and articles on sound.

In the early 70s, while still working as a traffic engineer, Kenton began a side gig building loudspeaker systems for local bands. From the mid-70s on, after he left city planning for good, Kenton became living proof of the adage: “If you love what you’re doing, you’ll never work a day in your life.” In 1974 he took a full-time job at Delta Sound, a JBL distributor. When he realized the company wasn’t going very far Kenton decided to start his own business where he could pursue his hobby and passion in earnest. His first company, K&L Sound, soon evolved into Forsythe Audio, and then in 1978, together with a few friends and fellow audio nuts, Kenton formed Eastern Acoustics Works.

Over the years, after suffering through early financial struggles, and based almost entirely on technological brilliance and innovations in product design and manufacturing quality developed by Kenton, EAW became a fabulous success, known and highly regarded throughout the world as having revolutionized the sound reproduction industry. Among other things, Kenton invented an approach to sound reproduction that changed from clusters of component parts to integrated fully dimensional systems and solutions customized for each venue and each project’s requirements. Starting with installations of sound systems at local New England area dance clubs, EAW expanded exponentially, such that the sites where EAW’s loudspeaker systems are found are now far too numerous to catalog here. For example, however, such sites include churches, universities, performing arts centers, professional football, baseball, basketball, and hockey stadiums (more than 50% of all Major League baseball stadiums have loudspeaker systems installed by EAW), as well as concert systems for musicians as varied as the Oak Ridge Boys, Suzanne Vega, KISS, Eric Clapton, and the historical live concert by Paul McCartney at Red Square in Moscow. Kenton’s most cherished project, personally, was the sound system design developed for St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, which stands to this day. In 2011, when he was awarded the prestigious Parnelli Audio Engineer of the year, the presenter recognized: “There is not a professional audio engineer out there today that doesn’t touch something Kenton Forsythe is directly responsible for.”

While Kenton’s public accolades are numerous and deserved, and characteristically accepted by him with genuine modesty and humility, it is important to read between and behind the lines. As Kenton wrote in our 50th reunion book: “The greatest satisfaction, of course, comes from family.” Kenton was, more than anything, a loving and doting father to his three children, Jeremy, Jonathan, and Kendra, a faithful and steadfast husband to his wife of over 40 years, Christine, and a constant and helpful supporter to his nephews, nieces, in-laws, and numerous friends, many of whom were Yale classmates. Kenton passed away July 9, 2023, at age 78.

— Cameron Smith