Former Lipscomb academic pioneer died Monday...
Longtime faculty member Earl Dennis, 88, passed away on Monday.
Dennis began working at Lipscomb in 1960 for the mathematics faculty and stayed at the university for over 30 years. In 1977, he was appointed to the position of Vice President for Academic Affairs underneath President Willard Collins. He took over as the dean of faculty in 1988, and stayed in that position until his retirement in 1992.
Despite spending such a large percentage of his life in the academic field Dennis originally began working as a control engineer for National Carbon Company in Columbia, Tenn. after receiving a bachelor’s degree in engineering at Vanderbilt.
Dennis used this experience outside of education to bring in a unique and innovative approach to academics at the university.
“Dr. Dennis was always trying to improve,” executive assistant to the provost Mary Bouldin said to Lipscomb University, “Each year he would have the faculty evaluate how he was doing as a leader. He was forward thinking and very interested in people. He and his wife, Pearl, regularly had students and faculty in their home.”
While at Lipscomb, the school changed its status from college to university, helped begin the school’s first graduate program, added many undergraduate programs, and even led the school’s change from a Monday-Friday system for classes to the current schedule of Monday-Wednesday-Friday and Tuesday-Thursday. During this period, the school also transitioned from a quarter system to a semester system.
“He worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure faculty had the tools and resources they needed to be successful,” current Chief Academic Officer W. Craig Bledsoe said to Lipscomb University, “Resources were not always plentiful, but Dean Dennis always worked diligently to make those resources stretch as far as possible to help his faculty be the best they could be in the classroom. And he absolutely loved getting school started each fall. He loved the faculty, and he loved students.”
To go along with his degree in engineering, Dennis went on to earn a Master of Arts degree from Middle Tennessee State University in curriculum and instruction, a Master of Arts degree from Peabody College in mathematics and a doctorate in mathematics from Peabody.
Dennis is survived by his wife Pearl, his daughter Lydia Cobb, and his brother Bill.
A service to celebrate Dennis’ life will be held at Crieve Hall Church of Christ in Nashville on Saturday, Aug. 23, at 11 a.m., with visitation one half-hour before the service and from 5-8 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 22 there as well.
Photo courtesy of Lipscomb University