When I did the Scottish Politics module at Glasgow University, one of my perennial sources of amusement was Professor James Kellas' attempts to name-check his 'celebrity' former students. He'd say : "You just never know what will happen to you when you take this course. We've had Charles Kennedy, and...er, Alan Clements, he's the husband of Kirsty Wark..." And then he'd tail off, because he couldn't actually think of anyone else!
Still, Charles Kennedy wasn't too shabby an example to be getting on with. There aren't many people who can claim to have reshaped the British political party system before the age of thirty, but that's a feat Kennedy pulled off. He was one of just five MPs that the SDP were left with after the Alliance's disappointing showing at the 1987 election, and initially all five seemed to be implacably opposed to David Steel's proposal for a merger with the Liberals. Regardless of the state of opinion among the rank-and-file membership, it's hard to see how the merger could have gone ahead if the parliamentary party had maintained a united front - but it was Kennedy that eventually broke ranks, possibly due to his closeness to Roy Jenkins.
So his biggest single legacy is simply the existence of the Liberal Democrats. Given what happened last month, it would perhaps be unwise to call that a "lasting" legacy, but any degree of uncertainty on that front is scarcely his fault. Not only did he help to found the party, he gave it a clear and popular centre-left identity when he was leader, delivered two record-breaking election successes in a row, and in general just left the place in a better state than he found it. What occurred afterwards is entirely the responsibility of the ambitious men who squandered a golden inheritance after taking to the airwaves in a coordinated and determined effort to depose him in early 2006.
His other major legacy, of course, is to conclusively prove that British leaders and parties can survive unscathed (and can indeed thrive) after taking a stand against Anglo-American military adventurism. Although he failed to prevent the war in Iraq, he arguably paved the way for the thwarting of military action in Syria.
And was he denied a third legacy that he should have been destined for? You'd think he was the obvious choice to lead the anti-independence campaign during last year's referendum - there was simply no-one else on the unionist side that could have gone toe-to-toe with Alex Salmond in the popularity stakes. In the end, he barely even had a role. Salmond is quite right to point out today that Kennedy's heart wasn't in the campaign, but that's not because he wasn't passionate about staying within the UK - it was entirely because of the way the campaign was fought. He was much more passionate about Home Rule than he was about doom-mongering. If you can imagine an entirely different No campaign, fronted by an on-song Kennedy, making a positive and authentic-sounding case for Scotland to take on sweeping new powers within the UK...well, that could have been more like a 65-35 result, and then it really would have been over for the fabled "generation". All of us on the other side of the argument can count ourselves very fortunate that he was so foolishly sidelined.