1967-2023 Remembrance of Dr. Dwight Denison
The Martin School of Public Policy and Administration was fortunate to serve as the academic home of Professor Dwight Denison. He was first a Ph.D. student and then, after eight years and tenure at the Wagner School of Public Service at New York University, Dwight returned to the Martin School as a faculty member. Dwight contributed greatly to the Martin School and to the public budgeting and financial management profession. He was recognized as a great teacher by graduate students and received a University of Kentucky Great Teacher Award – an award usually granted to undergraduate teachers only.
As a token of appreciation to his service and to him as an example of kindness in the academic world and in his personal life, the Martin School welcomes your remembrances at a special Facebook page.
In his honor, the Dr. Dwight Denison Scholarship Fund has been established. There will be a contribution link here soon.
Friday, March 17 from 5 - 8 pm. at Kerr Brothers on Harrodsburg Rd.
A full obituary, with more information about visitation and funeral arrangements is available at the Kerr Brothers Funeral home website.
I had the pleasure of knowing Dwight for nearly 30 years as we were graduate students together, and later colleagues. Dwight was a great scholar as he become one of the leaders in his scholarly field and he made a positive impact on so many in his profession. He was also a great teacher as students adored him for his careful instruction as well as compassion for them. But more importantly, he was a great friend and cared immensely for those around him. He was always willing to provide a helping hand to everyone around him or provide encouraging words. I personally have fond memories of his dry sense of humor, his compassion for others, and his general care for me and my peers. We at the Martin School will dearly miss Dwight and we feel blessed for the years we could call him a colleague, teacher, and friend.
Dr. Denison has been a consistent champion to me and many others. My first conference experience is indicative of his influence and guidance. At the ABFM conference that year, Dr. Denison nominated me for an award where I was runner-up, introduced me to faculty at other institutions that eventually led to a job offer, and brought together UK students and faculty with other friends and alumni of the Martin School to share in networking and collegial fellowship. That experience was life-changing. And yet mine is only one example of his consistent affirming and growth-minded mentorship. Often, my friends and I joke about being in the DDFC, the Dwight Denison Fan Club, although he will always be Dr. Denison to me. In his quiet way, he helped restore my faith in myself when my confidence was shaken. By his integrity, his kindness, and his research, Dr. Denison has helped form who I aspire to be as a scholar, faculty member, and administrator, and I am consistently grateful for his presence in my life.
I was aware of Dwight’s immense scholarly reputation before getting to know him as a person, but what was striking was the near universal way that, without prompting, people would offer stories about Dwight’s generosity and kindness. Needless to say, those tales rang true once I had the opportunity to get to know Dwight myself. I did not have the pleasure of knowing Dwight for as long as many of my colleagues, and not nearly as much time as I would have liked. However, I am grateful to have spent time with Dwight, and will miss him as a colleague and a friend.
I can honestly say that I would not be where I am today if it weren't for Dwight Denison. Dwight taught me what it means to be a scholar, but more importantly he showed that you could be a great scholar while also being kind. His generosity and willingness to help others was well known in our field and will have a lasting impact on future generations. I strive to mentor my students with the same respect and dedication that Dwight had for his students, and I hope to continue his legacy through my scholarship and teaching.
Dwight Denison, a Gentleman Scholar in My Eyes
During the 2022 ABFM conference, I got word that Professor Dwight Denison had moved into hospice; I began to really worry about his health. Years before that, it became known that he was with an incurable disease. But I kept hoping that he could hang on for a long time, even some day a miracle may occur.
Dwight and I never were very close personally or professionally. Dwight got his PhD degree from the Martin School of Kentucky and specialized in debt management and non-profit; I came out of the Maxwell School of Syracuse, focusing on fiscal policy. He graduated several years ahead of me. When I came out of the graduate school, he was already close to his tenure at New York University’s Wagner School.
The relation between us two was almost solely intellectual. I got to know his name from the frequent appearance of his name in the ABFM journal Public Budgeting and Finance; he was a productive research. I got to meet him on a regular basis after I started to attend the annual ABFM conferences in 2000. Even there, our meeting was no more than nodding as professional colleagues.
I felt that I got to know him better from reading his research – clear in disposition, tight in logic, and appropriate in methods, not one or two papers, almost all of his papers carried a clear Dwight style. Thus, I started to pay more attention to him and his papers, though we were working in very different topical areas.
As I spent more years in this research profession, making closer and more frequent contacts with other scholars, it became apparent to me that a person like Dwight deserves serious attention from colleagues. This feeling was repeatedly reinforced from what I heard from Dwight’s students – the way he trained doctoral students, the manner he treated them, and the amount of care he planted into their academic growth – sometimes these former students approach me for discussion of their interested topics, other times the department heads of these young scholars invited me to serve as external reviewer for their tenure and promotion. Reading through the dossiers, one cannot avoid the touching, though implicit, mention of Professor Dwight Denison playing those multiple roles, far beyond a mere teacher and adviser.
Over time, Dwight and I began to chat a bit, still not much, when we met at the annual ABFM conference. A couple years after he moved back to Martin School, he was diagnosed the disease; and I began to look for him at the conference and get close to him for a moment of chatting, he would grin, saying something light, and then listen to me talk about any matter of common interest.
Yesterday (March 17, Friday) I learned of Dwight’s passing from the Line Item, Newsletter of ABFM. It was not a complete surprise though, I still felt a shock. Dwight had been a diligent researcher, a nice teacher, above all a good person. “A Gentleman Scholar” may be among the most appropriate and exact depictions of him. I will keep him in my professional memory as such.
March 18, 2023