CSSP mourns the passing of our respected colleague and dear friend Kent Berkley. Kent lost his courageous battle against pancreatic cancer on November 16, 2022, and died at his home surrounded by family including his beloved wife Michele, his children Gabriella and Isaac, and his granddaughter Luna.
Kent worked hard and made a difference in everything he did. Many of us at CSSP are fortunate to have known and worked closely with him over the years. CSSP Senior Fellow Leonard Burton, who considered Kent a brother, describes him as “A champion of justice, an intellectual giant, a strategic thinker, a principled progressive, and a man of deep and abiding faith.” An exceptional attorney, Kent used his expertise in the law to defend indigent clients, and to fight to improve juvenile justice and child welfare systems across the country. He always strove to find common ground with others…but when there was no common ground to be found, he remained principled in his convictions and steadfast in his resolve.
Kent spearheaded successful reforms at the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, successfully advocating to close the Tennessee Preparatory School and return children and youth to their families and communities. He authored several articles and, through his work with the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, worked tirelessly to bringing visibility to the challenges young people aging out of foster care face.
In addition to his many professional accomplishments, Kent knew how to have fun. He was a serious baseball player who played competitively in college and shared his love of the sport with young people, coaching and supporting them to love the game as he did.
Kent’s passion and commitment to making a better world for all children and families has left a lasting mark on all who had the pleasure to know and work with him. He is gone but he will never be forgotten by his friends and colleagues at CSSP—and in all the places he worked, played, and lived life to the fullest. We will all miss him deeply.