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In Memoriam: Al Denman

Antioch College is saddened to learn of the passing of Alvin Lindsley Denman. He died the morning of January 16, 2019, at home in Yellow Springs. 

"Al was a pillar of Antioch College and the Village of Yellow Springs," says President Tom Manley. "He had the rare gift of being able to see the world through the eyes of others. He was a nurturing advisor, educator, and facilitator of authentic community. Indeed, he exemplified what it means to live as a citizen in what Seamus Heaney called the 'Republic of Conscience.' The phrase 'true blessing' surely resonates with those who had the good fortune to know Al; certainly, Antioch College, and the world, are immensely better because of him and the inclusive, open-hearted and intentional ways he lived and served."

Al came to Antioch College as its last College Pastor in 1965, and served as Professor of Philosophy of Law and Religion until his retirement in 1992. He saw dramatic change at the College over the course of his long career, and was perhaps its most stalwart and passionate champion. Al remained closely involved in the College after his retirement, counseling many presidents. 

An ice cream social in memory and celebration of Alvin Denman will be held Sunday, January 27 from 1–3 pm at the Antioch College South Gym in the Wellness Center. Drop by anytime to celebrate, grieve, and share a memory with friends; there will be a place to leave/write notes. A structured memorial service will be held March 23 (details to come).

If you would like to share your memories and appreciation for Al, you may do so by posting in the Stories section on the password-protected Alumni Association website, or by sending an email to alumni@antiochcollege.edu, and we will post them publicly below.


An obituary has been posted here.

Scroll down for remembrances...

Al Denman in 1966 (at left) and 1990 (at right)


Remembrances of Al Denman from alumni and friends

I remember Al riding his bike with Donna and various children, orange safety flags flying, another instance of his always taking care of whoever he was with and doing the right thing. He was so kind and so generous.

–Isabel Auerbach '72


Father Al. We shall not see such a man again!

–Bruce T. Grier '85


Farewell, Al. An inspiration and support to so many.

–Lisa Marie Jacobs '88


Al would have been a singular treasure for any institution of higher learning in America, and Antioch was fortunate beyond measure to have held onto him and to be held by him for so long and under so many trying circumstances.  He embraced an especially inspirational role in the Alumni Board-led rescue of the college from the shutdown imposed by Antioch University in 2008.

As a member of that board throughout those "war years," one of the highlights of my life was his invocation at Commencement 2015 in which he evoked the spirit of an 18th-19th century Native American leader in his charge to the first graduating class of the newly independent Antioch (https://vimeo.com/132704432 at 38:15).

"I hear voices rising from these grounds … Tecumseh, chief of the Shawnee Nation: 'This was our home, this was our land on which you are sitting … Earth our mother,'" Denman intoned. "… Today she is gravely ill, stripped, gouged … take care of our ailing mother."

May we all cherish the memory of Alvin Denman and our memories of him.

–Tim Klass '71


I have fond memories of Al Denman. He was my professor in Fall 1975 for a class called something like "Introduction to Philosophy Using the Films of Ingmar Bergman". It is one of the few courses I have always remembered and the learning experience I had in that course helped motivate me to eventually earn my Ph.D. He showed me what it was like to have a teacher who was intellectually inspiring and also gentle and kind. I will always remember the peaceful smile of joy on his face.... 

–Shelley Diamond '80


 I remember him with an interest in and support of the Dayton Miami Valley College Consortium and a multi-disciplinary course Faith Crisis in Culture at the University of Dayton in 1968. That year a generation of college students examined their lives, and then acted with a new will.  Many who changed in Dayton were inspired, afforded, and supported by Al Denman and his colleagues.

–Ken Finlayson '70


I am so sorry to hear of Al's passing. We taught together from 1968 until 1975 in our small philosophy and religion department. I will always remember his kindness to a new young colleague, even when campus craziness put us on different sides of the chaos. I believe that Charlie Love and I are now the only survivors of that time. I will try to find Charlie to let him know.  My condolences to Donna and the family.

–Bob Atkins


The door to Al's office in back of the Quaker meeting house was always open. Inside he would listen patiently to stories and dreams of a better, more peaceful world. We would talk of ways to search, ways to create more sincerity and honesty - love and compassion - the value of heart and spirit - how to awaken and enliven those within ourselves and in others. Always thoughtful, insightful, warm and down to Earth. A spiritual father and light through the shadowy world of adolescence. He will always be a part of me - alive in my life - a light in my way. Thank you, Al. 
–Prentiss Phillips '72


I attended Antioch from 1992 to 1996, graduating with a degree in history. My time at Antioch was deeply formative, wonderful, intense. There were several people who made my years at Antioch life-changing, fascinating, and fun. Al was one of them, for sure.

I took his class on world religions (I don’t remember its formal title). His class gave me and my classmates the opportunity to learn about and experience religions from around the world.

We read deeply about the religions, engaged in critical discussions about them. And perhaps best of all we had the wonderful opportunity to experience the religions by visiting a place of worship for each one right in the Miami Valley. We were able to learn by doing - so Antioch! And so key to learning was the opportunity to meet with, talk with, and to observe respectfully observants of the religions we were learning about. Al led the entire class and each experience with deep respect and wisdom. He steered the class in the right direction always and made sure the discussions were kept thoughtful, measured, and made us find answers to deep questions.

Al was a very special person, and a part of my own learning experience. He is missed.

–Alison Stankrauff '96


Al was a generous, open person, physically small, with a great, exceptional heart.  In the late 1960’s, times when a great deal of ideological and cultural unpleasantness was in fashion, particularly in Yellow Springs, he stood out for being above it all.  As a teacher of religion and philosophy and very much still a pastor, he was simply a humble servant of God, focused on positivity, with an open mind, and no apparent interest in politics or identity group dynamics.  I imagine he must have been from the Midwest, though I have no idea.  I sensed a great kinship with him and trusted him implicitly.  He did his best to help me through my confused adolescent years at Antioch, in fact he sought me out several times to offer special opportunities. 

In the summer of 1966, our first at Antioch, Jim M. and I, along with several others, went on a four-day comparative religion/cultural tour of Kentucky, arranged and mentored by him.  We traveled in his modest sedan, driving up and over the mountains in an era before any four lanes had been built in that rough, and to us, uncivilized territory to visit a couple of very rustic KY mountain colleges. 

Al was always so occupied talking that he frequently lost the way.  This happened even before we even crossed the Ohio River and entered the hills.  We soon learned that if we weren’t going to be deeply lost, we needed to be the pilots.  So we closely watched the map, while he continued talking. 

Seeing firsthand the poverty in which the Kentucky hill folk lived, this was a powerful experience for us, learning that Al must have known would be worth the trip.  This was before the Johnson era, anti-poverty programs had taken much effect.  We slept in mountainside log cabins and shared meals and seminars with various church and college groups, all arranged by Al. 

On a Sunday morning, we attended a small, decrepit one-room mountaintop fundamentalist church.  During the ceremony, the pastor focused on Jim, trying his almighty best to motivate him to proceed to the front, confess his sins, and be saved.  Jim, whom I think had little if any religious training, was baffled and definitely not ready for a religious epiphany.  I think his inner Eagle Scout, still in effect at that time, wanted to cooperate, but no lights went off, I guess. 

I remember playing eight-ball in Hazard, in a little, unpainted clapboard pool room, next to the river that meandered through the mostly decrepit town. Being from rural Ohio, in a place where many Kentuckians ended up working in factories, I actually felt some kinship with those poor folks, actually more than with the mostly urban Antioch kids. 

When I went to the men’s room, located in the shack’s back end jutting over the river, I was surprised to see that the toilet just flushed directly into it. I also remember getting a bottled Coke out of one of those water filled coolers in which the bottles were arranged in long, parallel lines, hanging by the knobs on their necks.  After putting in your dime, you slid the bottle out of the line into the exit line, though the opened gate and out.  Remember those?

In the last twenty years, I have inspected timberland as a forester/appraiser all over, I mean everywhere, in eastern Kentucky as well as West Virginia.  Every time I visit, my trip with Al and Jim comes to mind. It’s a far different place, not 100% better, fifty years later.

–Jeff Wikle '71


Dear Family, friends and ex-students of Al Denman, before writing something about Al, let me apologize that, as is almost always the case in this sort of note, it will necessarily contain, probably too much so, personal details about my own person.

I began at Antioch in the Summer of 1964 as a rather naïve and analytically undereducated Texas boy.  Yates Hafner saved my “career” at Antioch that first semester, but then in 1965, still unsure of where I might be going with a college education, I met Al.  He encouraged me to continue my searching as a possible candidate for the rabbinate and guided me with a kind, knowing and open hand on a path that had so many twists and turns, I am not sure how he was able to keep up with me or with them!  

Thanks to the wonderful inspiration of Paula Spier, there was an Antioch Education Abroad year in Israel from 1966 to 1967 in which I moved inwardly from a reformed Judaism place in my soul to a rather conservative one, and at the same time transformed my love for folk dancing Friday nights in Red Square to an actual “job”, performing with the student union’s folk dance group in many places in Israel.  It was during that same year in Israel that a sort of modern dance training entered my life as a side line at the Hebrew University.  

Returning to Antioch, Al helped me greatly to get out of the messy confusion I had created within my mind, heart and body, at first with an encouragement to study acting and dance at Antioch while still pursuing my, by then, chosen major of Religion and Philosophy.  Then there was his complete support for my impulses to first apply to the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and then a year later just as impulsively to write that I would not be attending the Seminary early, but rather finishing the full five years at Antioch. Perhaps his most unusual support came as I decided, instead of writing a paper as a final department requirement for graduation, to choreograph a dance concert called “Antioch Sweet Dance.”  I graduated and ended up in New York, not at the Jewish Theological Seminary, but at NYU School of the Arts in a Dance Theatre Master’s program.

Al and I remained in contact by occasional letter and a visit or two when I could get back to Yellow Springs.  He shared my joy in my Broadway debut in the revival of “Fiddler on the Roof” with Zero Mostel.  10 years later, he continued to accompany from afar, the decision indeed, to go to seminary, but to one of the Christian Community in Germany.  He knew of my ordination and sent some words of real wisdom for pastoral care that would come my way because of this new adventure, especially as I landed alone in a congregation in Lima, Peru.

Our last communication was his expressed pleasure at my impending marriage to my husband and a desire to attend the wedding, i.e. until he realized that I was still talking about Lima, Peru and not Lima, Ohio!  I would not call Al a Friend.  
That is too small a role to assign him in my life.  He was more like a leit-motif that at critical moments has shined up into consciousness, but that will, even with his passing, will, I am certain, continue to shine there.

–Paul Corman '69


I remember coming back to campus in 1968 from an emotionally intense and deeply meaningful weekend with loved ones, not wanting to be back, being filled up with feelings, and not knowing where to turn. The only person I could think of was Al Denman. So I went to see him, and at the first kind word, I burst into tears. I don’t remember much of what else happened, but I left feeling seen, held, validated, and able to go on with life. It was a great gift, and I have held him in my heart all these decades. When I saw a note in The Antiochian a few years ago, announcing a scholarship in his name, I reached out for contact information, and was able to tell him directly how much he had mattered to me. I’m very sorry that he is gone, but mostly deeply grateful that he was alive and in my life at Antioch.

–Pamela Haines '71


In 1977,  I took a two-quarter course with Al in which we used the University of Dayton Law library to research our topic.  It was my introduction into law and he impressed upon me the need to be very, very precise in what you “cite” when making a case.  That still means a lot to me today.  To be clear and focused about what you say and write.  I’m sorry to learn of his passing.

–Alan Siege '78


My spouse, Caroline Kastle McEuen '71, needed to be baptized as a Christian before we could be married in 1968. We compiled our own text for the ceremony, from poetry and multicultural scriptures, and on a clear spring morning Al officiated as we enacted the sacrament at the Yellow Spring in Glen Helen. It was a moment both visceral and spiritual, earthly and transcendent, of birth and renewal. Unforgettable. As is Al Denman. Peace and safe journeying.

–Jim McEuen '71


When I started at Antioch as an assistant professor in the Department of Foreign Languages I was invited by Al Denman to join a small committee of faculty members investigating a program called “New Directions.”  That is when I had the opportunity to get to know Al.
Later on we were both members of Adcil, and also there he showed his undying loyalty to the college and the students.

Sure, we had some serious discussions and disagreements, as Al was a very convinced liberal and I belonged to the radical faction.  But this never tainted our collegial relationship: when we wanted to leave our car behind when in summer we visited the grandparents in Europe Al was always prepared to help us out,  This is just one example of the matter-of-fact way he treated his colleagues, students and members of the Yellow Springs community.

It was a pleasure to work with him and to experience his basic honesty.  

Oh yes, one more thing: when the Marxist scholar and liberation theologian Carlos Lenkersdorf had to flee for his life after the massacre of the students at the U. of Mexico, the first person we turned to for efficient support was, without any doubt…Al Denman.  Need I say more?

–Ludo Abicht (faculty from 1968 until 1981)


So sad to hear that Al Denman has died...he was always open to listen, to offer council, tell stories of past and relate them to now.   He brought love to everything he did. He was an avid gardener who bequeathed his orange tree to our family with a request for a jar of homemade marmalade each year.  

He helped me to gather the courage to write a grant for First Presbyterian and to weather storms of life. He will be dearly missed by many in YS and by the congregation of First Presbyterian YS. I know that he is with God.   

–Libby (and Dan) Rudolf


I have incredibly fond memories of Al. He was my professor, friend and mentor. In particular I remember a class that I took with him which I believe was entitled Zen and the Art of Glen Running. As the title of the class suggests, he took us places - physically, intellectually and spiritually. He cared deeply about his students, constantly exuding warmth and compassion. He exemplified the best of Antioch and, in doing so, brought out the best in his students. I'll miss knowing that he continues to touch the lives of others and I suspect the broader Antioch community, past and present, likely feels the same way, I'll carry his spirit with me, knowing I was lucky to have known him. I'm grateful that Antioch introduced me to Al. My heart goes out to Donna, my Antioch peers Todd and Don, and Linnea and Matt

–Ian Yolles​ '80


I suspect that there is no more important learning platform in my life than Antioch College, and no more important person at Antioch than Al Denman.  It was a wonderfully curious and improbable scenario that unfolded between Al and me, as we both landed at Antioch in 1965, he as professor and college pastor and I as student.  Of course, curiosity and improbability ended up for both of us as central moniker for what Antioch does for people.

It was the heyday of the 1960s and Al was ready for it all.  While much more ready for the rough and tumble social creativity and chaos of that era than much of Antioch itself and certainly me, he also already knew how to listen carefully and ask the hard and interesting questions.  At first, as so many of us threw ourselves into activism of every kind, I did not get what Al was doing to and for us. Almost irritated and certainly puzzled by the easy pace of his conversation, observations, and questions, I kept wondering why he did not leap onto the barricades as quickly as the rest of us.  Was he just dense? Afraid? Befuddled?

It took me at least half of my five years to realize that he was simply very wise and wanting to help us learn at least as much as we accomplished and produced.  Even as a young professor, he knew that his questions and puzzling observations would serve us better than impulsive/compulsive crusade. I do not remember him criticizing our social justice rants, and it turned out that he was along side of us in most of our activism.  But in the decades that ensued in which I found myself in the high altitudes of national social activism with all its self-righteousness ambitions, I often wished for Al’s wry grin, understated questions, and musings.

Although I am sure that Al played the central role in the high honors with which I left Antioch, the hilarious and powerful set of gestures most typical of Antioch genius and deepest gift to me happened in my fourth year.  He was headed out for his first sabbatical, and he had the crazy idea that I—just back from a year abroad—should be Antioch’s college pastor in his absence. On top of this ridiculous idea he piled the notion that I should teach the Religion Department academic courses.  And it all happened. I taught two courses, provided counseling sessions for students, and performed the formal public religious roles for the college. I even convinced myself that I really was the College Pastor. The courses were popular, and most of all, I learned so much.  My (non-Antioch) partner just roars with laughter when she hears this ridiculous story. This set in motion a life I had never expected as an academic and a public religionist. But most of all, it taught me to expect myself to grab life by its public and private parts, love it with passion, ask lots of questions, and mock my own and others self-righteousness.  Thank you, Al.

Hal Taussig '70


I arrived in the Springs in the Fall of 1975 as a transfer student trying to finish my checkered college career and trying to figure out at least the first part of my life. That first quarter I took a first-year multidisciplinary course called "World Views and Ways of Knowing," taught by Jewell and Al. Throughout that quarter I could feel scales I never knew were there falling from my eyes. This was Al's (and Jewell's) first important gift to me.

After that, the gifts and enlightenment came fast and filled my two years at Antioch. Ingmar Bergman films on Friday nights in Main Hall. George Sheehan and the joys of running. The history of the College, the Glen, the village he shared with me as we ran together. The cooold November run when he took me down a road I didn't know to find the Christmas Tree farm with its small gathering of folks drinking hot chocolate around a barrel fire.

Of course, he provided guidance that eventually shaped my life. He provided gentle skepticism to counter my naive views of law and American justice--skepticism that would provide an intellectual foundation for me when DC blew away my naivete. He, and other Antioch professors, provided me a model of education I have used throughout my life. It is a model I continue to lean on as I now find myself a professor in these dark days when American "education" is becoming more and more encumbered by "outcomes assessments" and other "metrics" that often seem to have nothing at all to do with education.

The most important intellectual gifts Al gave me were Epictetus, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, Camus, and the other existentialists. The first day of Existentialism, he plopped himself down on the floor of that chairless room in McGregor and gave us our first lesson in existentialism: We had to choose. Would we follow the syllabus he had prepared or create one ourselves? Would we use his text, or find something else? We chose to follow his lead and, at least for me, it was, perhaps, the formative class of my life. I still have that brilliant textbook (now sadly out of print), full of underlining and annotations, so overused I've had to duct tape it together. Decades later, as I trained to become a clinical counselor/psychotherapist, I returned to that class as I read Yalom and incorporated all of that wisdom into my theoretical approach to helping my clients. When I finally finished my Ph.D., 40 years after my Antioch graduation, Al had the place of honor in my dedication.

Having lived a peripatetic childhood, I learned early on how to shake the dust of wherever I'd been off my shoes. After I left Antioch, it took me years before I could return. But when I did, I looked for Al and when I found him I was astonished that his eyes brightened when he saw me. He then gave me so much time, sitting on the steps of Main Hall, asking about my life, sharing his. When I told him about how much I had treasured Existentialism, he gave one of those great, indescribable laughs of his. Then he confessed to me that when he'd taught that class, he knew very little about existentialism and that he was learning as much from us as we were learning from him.

The last time I saw Al in person was almost 20 years ago. I had finally married and my wife and I were driving across the country as we relocated from DC to Albuquerque. I called Al and he sounded delighted to meet us as we passed through. Of course, we met for breakfast at Young's and I was amazed to see him ride up on his bike. Without reservation, he gave me and my wife his undivided attention. Our breakfast ended more because we had a schedule to keep than did he.

I know other Antiochians spent much more time with Al--and I must admit some silly jealousy over that. But in the two brief years I was in Yellow Springs, Al and Antioch shaped me for a lifetime. As a therapist and teacher, I hope I pass that legacy along to my clients and students. Last night, in my first class of the semester with students brand new to the counseling world, I shared a picture of Al and explained I would not have become who I am without him.

Al was my professor, guide, running partner, and mentor. He remains my model for how to be a counselor, therapist, educator, decent human being. He was also the only real father-figure of my adult life

Since my time at Antioch I have always tried to win some victory to know I can die unashamed. While Horace's words provide the text, it is always Al Denman's gentle voice I hear, saying, "I think you might have won one today. Well done!" I can only hope Al knew of the innumerable victories he was a part of. I can only hope he knew how grateful all of us were to have been touched by his life.

Thank you, Al.

—Michael Morad-McCoy '77


I took a philosophy class with Al Denman in 1975 I think. I remember his very kind and gentle approach to the students and to the material. The class was small and he had us all over to his house at least once. He was able to make these very important and influential thinkers accessible to our group of curious and so very young idealistic students. His class was a safe space to experiment with ideas and to learn to think and write. 

—Tom Crowe '77
 


Al Denman and I arrived at Antioch in 1965, and he was one of the first faculty members who welcomed me to campus. We both had to adjust to the new first year program, and I remember participating in a seminar he offered that met in his house. I came from a much more structured high school learning environment and the idea that a teacher could be so informal, yet committed to helping me adjust to the rigors of a college philosophy course was so supportive.

During my time in Yellow Springs, I saw Al as a friend and mentor. We each struggled to help the Antioch of the late 60’s negotiate its way through challenging and changing times. But I saw Al as more than a faculty member. To me he was someone I could go to for advice and good counsel. Once, when I happened to meet a young runaway kid from Dayton, I went to Al for guidance. He helped me understand that I should convince the runaway to go back home, and then he helped me get her back to Dayton.

I was sad to learn of his passing, and I’ll always remember his warmth, support, good advice and leadership.

Al Denman was an important part of my Antioch and of who I became.

—David Greenberg '70


Twenty years my senior, Al was a competitive running buddy who made every training run a lesson in so many ways. He chugged up hills with his signature “toot” that was both inspiring and endearing. Between breaths we had conversations that ran the gamut from mundane to metaphysical. Time spent with him was usually the highlight of my day. Others have beautifully captured the essence of the man and it is evident that his legacy lives with us as we speak a kind word or assist those in need of a helping hand. 

—Michael Hughes, Antioch faculty, 1978-1983


Al had a shaping influence on my life, career, and how I see and interact with the world around me. Along with Jewel Graham, Al Denman was one of two bookends that defined my time at Antioch. I came to Antioch in the fall of 1980 and graduated in spring 1984 with a major in social work and a focus on cross-cultural studies. During that time I think I took every law, philosophy, and religion course that Al offered. He is largely responsible for starting me on the path to critical thinking and thoughtful writing.

There are so many “take-aways” that I learned from Al that have guided my life for decades. These have helped me to be a conscious human being and shaped my ventures into academia. I will note a few here.

Al gave the clear message that a well-rounded paper must be informed by diverse perspectives. As I remember it, he required that each paper’s reference list must cite at least three sources who were not coming from a position of privilege. In other words, it was inadequate to draw on perspectives of only straight, White, male, middle to upper class perspectives. We were required to actively seek voices of people of color, LGBT, immigrant, non-Christian, and other marginalized peoples. This was no small requirement in the early 1980s when library resources were found by flipping through index cards in a large wooden card catalogue and not a single computer was in sight. His requirement was unwavering. A good paper must be informed by diverse sources. There was no excuse for citing only White males whose perspectives were easily accessible.

Al guided us to explore different forms of learning and different expressions of what we learned. The experiential learning that he employed in teaching religions of the world took me and my classmates to synagogues, mosques, and churches where I learned about diverse peoples, diverse perspectives, myself, and my comfort zone. I drew on this foundation and the importance of experiential learning as I entered academia and taught diversity courses.

In some classes Al required reading several books multiple times. Some classes required a paper each week and that students experiment with different forms of writing from poetry to parody. Intense reading and writing demands pushed students to deeper levels of understanding.

I am eternally grateful for the experiences I had with Al in and out of the classroom in the early 1980s. We corresponded for a bit in the mid to late 1980s and I was able to tell him about my experiences in graduate school and my first teaching position at his old alma mater, University of Idaho. I was able to tell him how he influenced my life and career and he kept me updated on Antioch and his family. Although we lost touch in the 1990s I was delighted to hear from him again in 2013. I was able to spend time with him and Donna in April 2016 when my children and I came to Yellow Springs for Jewel Graham’s memorial. I was truly blessed to have this time with him, reflecting on our connections over the decades, and the shaping influence he has had on my life.

Al Denman exemplifies Antioch at its best. He has made a difference in the world. His legacy will be a ripple effect carried out by the many students he taught over the decades. I am proud to be a part of that legacy.

—Hilary N. Weaver '84


So Sad, indeed.  So Chezals put "pen to paper" and wrote:

Leaves' Life Cycle by Chezals 17Jan2019

From Earth do they SPRING forth,
  Ever Rising, Reaching Wide and Far into the Sky,
Creating Scenes of Beauty for all to Embrace; and
  Spreading Life's Oxygen and Joy for All to Breathe and Enjoy,
While simultaneously spreading COOL and GENIAL Breezes for all to share.

'Till Time and SUMMER slowly loosen the leaves' GRIPS,
  Change their colors and they begin to SLIP;
Falling back to EARTH to begin Anew,
 The Life Cycle from Ages Ago,
As The Winter Snow prepares for a new "HELLO".

 

I knew Alvin as a friend, neighbor, citizen, activist, academician, strategist, fellow parent, sportsman and an all-round good guy.  I will miss his friendship and his counsel.
Luckily, there is Donna and the next generations of Denmans to carry on.  May they take comfort, as do I, that we had such a good GUY in our lives. 

—Al Smith


I was fortunate to have taken a course with Al Denman when I arrived on the Antioch College campus in the Fall of 1975 as a transfer student from Syracuse University.  In the first class of Dr. Denman’s course, he did something I’d never seen a college professor do: he asked the students to give him 5 suggestions for topics they wanted to have covered in the curriculum.  Not all of the students’ ideas could be included in the class but Dr. Denman selected a number of the offered subjects for study in the coursework.  One of those items was mine.

In the Fall of 1975, students from nearby Cedarville College, a fundamentalist Baptist institution, were periodically coming onto the Antioch campus to proselytize.  I suggested a field trip to Cedarville for the purpose of being guests in a religion class.  Dr. Denman arranged for a proffered invitation to sit in on a religion class at Cedarville and to have a group discussion after the lecture.  It was an interesting experience to listen to another point of view, even if I did not agree with what was said.

In our current atmosphere of divisiveness and acceptance only of our own subjective set of facts, it was was good to learn the valve of listening to what other people have to say, especially when there are disagreements.  Dr. Denman was the type of professor who wanted to know what his students wanted from their fields of studies.  He was also a man who understood that there are many gods.  God bless you Al Denman, and thanks for the great learning experiences.

—Rebecca J. Mark '77


As a freshman I took a philosophy course taught by Al Denman. I was very shy. In my evaluation (my grade for the class) he wrote that I spoke up when I couldn't contain myself any longer, my contributions were important, and that he hoped to hear more from me. Al Denman helped me find my voice.

—Medora Ebersole '80


Thanksgiving Nov 24, 2016

Dear Al,

I am so thankful you were my teacher.  You taught ideas, true, but often the ideas were posed as questions and the questions did not always have clear answers.  Plus you actively encouraged us to ask our own questions, even if it meant challenging you.  So, later in life, I could see what you were really doing was planting seeds of a different kind of idea--how to use questions in order to think.  You knew that being able to formulate questions was essential if your students were to become critical thinkers so we could go out in the world and “fight the good fight”. 

Those seeds, planted by the gardener Al Denman, took root and caused new seeds to be planted by his students in others who in turn are sowing seeds of their own.  If the physicists teach us that the Butterfly Effect--the fluttering of the butterfly’s wings which begin as a small effect but which can result in large changes in a later state---then so, too, can the results of the seeds that teachers plant…that Al Denman planted.

Thank you, Al.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

—Harrell Guy Graham '77


Earlier this week I learned of the passing to another realm of one of my professors at Antioch Colege. Al Denman was a philosophy teacher. He was my advisor for my self-designed major called “World Philosophy” a synthesis of anthropology and philosophy.
A few years ago I actually exchanged some snail mail letters with him as he and his wife did a handwritten campaign to alumni looking for support from the college. He even shared regards from the Eastern philosophy teacher, Ramesh Patel. Infelt honored that they remembered me, and so kindly.

Since reconnecting with a lot of Antiochians on Facebook I have realized how deeply my Antioch education has influenced my understanding of the world and of how to be in the world. 

Reading this homage from the president of Antioch: “Al was a pillar of Antioch College and the Village of Yellow Springs. He had the rare gift of being able to see the world through the eyes of others. He was a nurturing advisor, educator, and facilitator of authentic community. Indeed, he exemplified what it means to live as a citizen in what Seamus Heaney called the "Republic of Conscience.” I realize how much I try, in my own life in my “peaceful village” to facilitate authentic community and live in a Republic of Conscience.”

Thank you Al.

—Kirana Stover '87


I remember the first paper I wrote for Al Denman in 1974.  The class was, “An Introduction to Ethics Through the Study of World Hunger.”  I was not only fascinated by the topic, but reveled in the deep satisfaction of righteous indignation.  There was a special brand of righteous indignation that was endemic to the times and certainly to being an Antioch hippie.  The readings Al chose for us were engaging and thought provoking.  Al’s gentle demeanor, humble approach and facilitation of respectful class discussion were deeply rewarding and a perfect antidote to the opinionated arrogance and moral superiority that I brought to him as an adolescent, but the real magic happened in how Al coached us in individual meetings.  I was inspired to work hard on my first draft, turning it into Al with great expectation.  Al’s enthusiastic and deeply affirming response was even more complimentary than expected but embedded in the feedback were comments such as, “This is such a fine analysis but can you imagine how remarkable it would be if you just tweaked this one argument a bit.”  Al helped each of his students know they were the best and that we could do anything we worked at.  His enthusiasm and respect were so acute that I came to think of getting feedback from Al as a celebratory experience.  I would race back to my room, eager to respond to the suggestion, and full of intellectual curiosity.  Each subsequent draft I turned in replicated the experience of the first draft.  Al used supportive feedback, respect, academic rigor, and kindness to turn me into a thinker and a writer.  My gratitude for that shaping of who I am and the deep rich satisfaction it continues to bring to my world, knows no limit.  Al Denman was my favorite professor in both undergraduate and graduate school.  He taught me not only the content of a philosophy class, but the joy of disciplined and creative thinking.  His curriculum was kindness and curiosity, the philosophy of Al Denman.  I will always be grateful for his gifts and humbled by his memory

—Susan (Jacobs) Buniva '77


Al Denman performed the wedding service for us in June 1966. It took place in Glen Helen, at the Yellow Spring. Then we walked, with our guests, back to a dorm common room, and had a small reception featuring some home-made mead.

I do not remember many details about his counseling meeting with us beforehand, nor much else about the day. But I can clearly bring to mind the beautiful, joyful smile on his face as he completed the ceremony.

Mike and Kay MacLaury, still together and in love after 52 years

—Kay MacLaury '66


Antioch was such a life-changing experience for me, but no one impacted me more than Al Denman. He was my alchemist. I took his Violence and Nonviolence philosophy class in 1982 and it led to the Watson Fellowship a year later, another life-shaping passage. But Al’s influence never ended.  I thought of him often and felt this love and strength many times on that and other journeys. 

Al was not just my path to a deep plunge into investigating nonviolent social change, he was my first and most important Satyagrahi, a seeker of Truth.  Like all seekers of Truth, while Al was filled with joy, respect, and kindness, he had high standards and he held both himself and you to them. Al was the one who told me I had to reduce my 50-page Watson application to just ten pages, a task that seemed impossible at first.  But I knew he believed I could do it, and that faith carried me through.   

I remember Al’s Friday Forums, dialogues on important topics, where he brought people together from very different backgrounds and perspectives.  They were structured so that the invited speakers got their ideas out and then the audience – the participants really -- weighed in and shared their opinions.  We had to listen to each other and together we constructed a deeper understanding of the topic and ourselves.  Al showed us again that we needed both self-examination and our opponents to get to the deeper truth. 

Al played such key roles at critical times throughout Antioch’s evolution. I only learned of some of them when Antioch went through its closure and I read more about the history of Antioch and could see his impressive contributions over a very long span of time. He never wavered in his devotion to the College and its students. Al and Donna's creation of the Next Generations scholarship is yet one more example of their extraordinary generosity and vision. 

Dr. King said the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.  If it does, it is because of the tireless, steady efforts of people like Al and Donna Denman, pulling that arc towards a more loving, justice-filled world. 

Perhaps now Al dances on top, lending his weight in yet another fashion. AL, I will miss you so. My love and blessings to Donna, Linnea, and his family. 

—Bonnie Bazata '83


Please let me share some of my memories of Al Denman, my philosopher professor from 1989-1992 at Antioch College. Today I am a philosophy professor myself, and I owe so much to Al’s early influence. He shaped my approach to doing and teaching philosophy.

In my first year at Antioch, I took a class in the history of philosophy with Al, and I loved everything about it—how I got to call him Al, how the class was so small and he knew each student, how we got to debate ideas, and how he interspersed lecture and discussion with stories from his own life. I recall him telling us about the time as a young man he was doing manual labor digging holes for fences, and his philosophical contemplations led him to a conclusion about the meaning of life. But then he forgot what it was! That story makes me try to write down all my “good ideas”!

Al’s deep concern for people and for goodness was apparent in the way he taught his classes. Al treated me like I had worthwhile things to say. He encouraged me, the silent girl in his male dominated classes, to play the game, and when I couldn’t quite do it he took me into his office to speak with me one-on-one. I remember sitting next to his desk, with the window overlooking the east side of campus, seeing the trees and grass, Al’s manual typewriter on a stand beside him. He gave me an opportunity to ask my questions, and he encouraged me to appreciate my own philosophical work. Then he would type up comments for me to take away.

Al once told me that for my senior project I didn’t need to write a formal philosophy paper, but I could do a project of any sort. He gave me a couple of examples—an interpretive dance, or maybe a mobile. At the time I was not moved by these suggestions, but now I better appreciate the intention behind them, to bring philosophy into the wider world and not just see it as an academic pursuit.  That is one of the things Al taught me that I now teach my own students. 
Another important lesson Al taught me was how to be a philosopher. At a time when the academic culture of philosophy was a competitive attempt to undercut others’ arguments, Al modeled a collaborative approach to doing philosophy. Yes, we still looked for criticisms, but we did so in order to help develop the ideas and arguments, without needing to prove anything. Al showed me we that we have nothing to lose and everything to gain by helping to fill the gaps in others’ ideas. We are all just humans working together to grapple with questions about our world and how best to live in it. 

I lost touch with Al for many years, though I often thought about writing him a letter to thank him for his early influence on me. I never did. I should have. But, I am so lucky that Al found me last spring when I came to Yellow Springs for a yoga class, and gave a talk at the Philosophy Roundtable. Al and Donna were there during my talk, and invited my sister and me to their house for cake and tea the next day. I am so grateful to have had the time with Al to tell him how much his teaching and modeling of philosophical practice impacted me. And Al told me that he had read my books. That last meeting reinforced the importance of expressing gratitude to those who have been in my life and who I have lost touch with, because he showed me that he remembered me just as I remembered him. Thank you for that last lesson, Al. Go in peace and light.

—Kristin Andrews '92


I have continued to appreciate the wisdom Al imparted to us in the graduation benediction in 1967. Short and to the point..."Arise, go forth, this is no place to rest". Thank you Al for your inspiration and wisdom.

—Bill Bruff '67
 


It was the spirit of 1976 in the form of Al Denman that brought me to Antioch College in August, 1976 when I interviewed as a candidate for Antioch’s philosophy position.  I fell in love with Antioch at the first sight, so to say.  Al hired me next month and the rest is my life changed for ever.  Al was my senior colleague in Antioch’s Department of Philosophy and Religion, although George Geiger also taught two courses a year even though he had retired.  It was Al, George and me for several years.  This was the golden period of my life, which was all due to Al.

Al left me alone at the Department in 1992, when one day he suddenly said he was 65 and retiring.  It was a blow to me because it was impossible for me to imagine Antioch without Al.  For me Al WAS Antioch and he still is.  Fortunately, Al continued to help and guide me while I went on to teach at Antioch until 2002 when I too retired.  To say that Al was my mentor would be a gross understatement.  He was a lot more than that.  

Al and Donna sheltered me throughout my life from the day in 1976 I came to Antioch with my wife and two children, driving late at night and sleeping at their house, to the day when both of them came to my home in Beavercreek and had lunch with us some months ago.  

Best possible mentor,  senior friend, greatest big brother was Al: I ran to him at the slightest trouble and he was always there to help, support, counsel, console, energize, inspire.  He did all this not just to me, for I saw him do the same to countless students and advisees and all colleagues.  He supported and toiled for Antioch more than anyone I knew in my twenty-five years of teaching at Antioch and beyond through retirement years.  

Al and I taught many courses at Antioch as a team: Religions of the World, Legal Systems of the World, Ethics.  Al arranged a big Friday Forum for me to speak on Gandhi as the film Gandhi was released, which paved way for my course called Gandhi: Truth and Nonviolence which I taught for eighteen years.  I think Al was the greatest teacher not only at Antioch but anywhere that I have seen, heard or otherwise known.  His influence of his students’ thinking was something to behold: he literally transformed their lives.

I, together with my whole family, will miss Al like our senior self.  Greatest human I have witnessed and walked with.  He fought injustice in the world in face of insurmountable challenges.  Al was a true karma-yogin I have seen operate in real life.  He was, is and will be that for ever.  

Good bye, Al, you have made the world a better place in many many ways.  We will remain in debt and gratitude for this for all times to come. Once you talked to me about your mystical experience of non-dual unity with all existence.  Now that you have actually become one with that existence, we will continue to draw inspiration from you all the time.  THANKS!

—Rameh Patel