Dennis Winslow Allen, 70, of Morgantown, West Virginia, passed away on Sunday, October 31, 2021. A memorial service will be held in Morgantown on June 16, 2022, his birthday.
Dennis was a beloved emeritus professor of English at West Virginia University and the recipient of numerous awards for his teaching, including the WVU Foundation teaching award and the Eberly College teaching award, which he won three times. In addition, the WVU chapter of the English honorary society Sigma Tau Delta twice named him outstanding teacher, and he was recognized as Outstanding Faculty Member by the Golden Key National Honor Society. Dennis found these latter two awards especially meaningful because they were given by students.
Dennis was born in Kansas City, Missouri, to Dorothy and Robert Allen. He received his B.A. in English from the University of Kansas in 1973, his M.A. in English from the University of New Mexico in 1975, and his Ph.D. in English from the University of Minnesota in 1981. After a year as a visiting assistant professor at the University of Minnesota, he started his illustrious career at WVU in 1982, inspiring students with his intellect, wit, and kindness. He retired from the university in 2017 but continued to teach courses for WVU’s Honors College.
In the classroom, Dennis was famous for illuminating literary classics by comparing them to contemporary songs, movies, TV shows, and politics. He encouraged his students to share their ideas, insights, and opinions on all sorts of subjects, and his classroom discussions were at once playful and serious, free-wheeling and vigorous. To step into one of his classes was to step into a kind of intellectual magic show. It was hard not to be both entertained and awed.
Dennis taught numerous versions of eleven different undergraduate courses and thirteen different graduate courses. He served on over seventy doctoral student committees. He supported and advocated for the LBGTQ+ community on campus, and he was instrumental in introducing courses into the English curriculum that reflect the diversity of WVU students and their interests.
Dennis was active in his profession beyond WVU, publishing a book, Sexuality in Victorian Literature, and more than twenty-five scholarly articles. He also edited a special issue of the journal Victorian Poetry. He served on the Delegate Assembly of his profession’s primary organization, the Modern Language Association, and he refereed his peers’ work for university presses and scholarly journals.
In retirement Dennis continued to serve WVU and the community through his work on the Appalachian Prison Book Project. He coordinated volunteers and supervised student interns, thereby continuing to be an inspiring mentor.
Dennis is preceded in death by his parents, Dorothy and Robert Allen. He is survived by his brother, Scott Allen, and two nieces, Thea Allen and Jessica Noftzger, as well as his sister, Donna Berry, and her two sons, Abraham and Timothy. He will be mourned by many close friends and an incalculable number of colleagues and students past and present.
In lieu of flowers, help us continue Dennis's legacy of supporting West Virginia University students and colleagues by making a gift to the Dr. Dennis W. Allen Memorial Fund: http://advancing.wvu.edu/dennisallen