KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A man of true distinction passed away Monday. Dr. Robert H. Kirk leaves a lasting legacy not only at the University of Tennessee but as a community leader.

The Michigan native put down roots in Tennessee after graduating from Fisk University and the University of Indiana with five degrees. He was the first Black tenured professor at UT and became a University of Tennessee department head, an obituary written by his family said.

“He mentored over 50 Doctoral candidates through their Ph.D. process and remained friends with a number of them,” Longtime friend Theotis Robinson said. “In the community, his leadership in the community because he was involved particularly in East Knoxville.”

Robinson went on to say he and Kirk often shared funny coincidences, the kind that only good friends can appreciate.

“I get to the gate and he asked ‘Where are you going?’ I said I’m going to the same place you’re going, he said well we are going to Seattle and I said that’s where we’re going,” Robinson said. “We extended our stay in Seattle because Bob and Norvella were staying an extra day.”

Robinson went on to describe Bob Kirk as a strong, principled man, a strong leader and a friend. He was 92 years old.

Kirk also started up a book club that has been going for 27 strong years. It was always a way for the group to have in-depth conversations and enjoy each other’s company.