Dennis Winslow Allen, 70, of Morgantown, passed away on Saturday, October 31, 2021.
Dennis was a popular professor emeritus of English at West Virginia University and received numerous awards for his teaching, including the teaching award from the WVU Foundation and the teaching award from Eberly College, which he won three times. In addition, the WVU group of the English honor society Sigma Tau Delta has recognized him twice as an outstanding teacher and he has been recognized as an outstanding faculty member by the Golden Key National Honor Society. Dennis found these latter two awards particularly significant because they were given by students.
Dennis was born in Kansas City, Missouri, to Dorothy and Robert Allen. In 1973 he received his Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Kansas, in 1975 his Master of Arts in English from the University of New Mexico and his Ph.D. in English from the University of Minnesota in 1981. After a year as a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota, he began his illustrious career at WVU in 1982, delighting students with his intellect, wit and friendliness. He retired from university in 2017 but continued to teach courses for WVU’s Honors College.
In the classroom, Dennis was known for shedding light on literary classics by comparing them to contemporary songs, films, television shows, and politics. He encouraged his students to share their ideas, insights, and opinions on all sorts of topics, and his classroom discussions were playful and serious, frank and energetic at the same time. Entering one of his classes meant entering some kind of intellectual magic show. It was hard not to be entertained and impressed at the same time.
Dennis has taught numerous versions of eleven different undergraduate programs and thirteen different graduate programs. He served on over seventy doctoral committees. He supported and advocated the LBGTQ + community on campus and was instrumental in introducing courses into the English curriculum that reflected the diversity of WVU students and their interests.
Dennis was active in his profession beyond the WVU and published a book “Sexuality in Victorian Literature” and more than 25 scientific articles. He also edited a special edition of Victorian Poetry magazine. He was a member of the delegates ‘assembly of the main body of his profession, the Modern Language Association, and reviewed his colleagues’ work for the university press and academic journals.
In retirement, Dennis continued to serve the WVU and the community through his work on the Appalachian Prison Book Project. He coordinated volunteers and supervised student interns and continued to be an inspiring mentor.
Dennis preceded his parents Dorothy and Robert Allen in death. He is survived by his brother Scott Allen; two nieces, Thea Allen and Jessica Noftzger; and his sister Donna Berry and their two sons Abraham and Timothy. He will be mourned by many close friends and a vast number of past and present colleagues and students.
A memorial service will be held in Morgantown on June 16, 2022, his birthday.
Instead of flowers, the family is asking for donations in his memory to the WVU Foundation, secure.give.wvu.edu/give. Select “+ Name” and enter “English Operations Fund (2V012)”. There is a toggle option at the bottom of the form that says, “Dedicate this gift in honor or memory of someone.” Check this option, select “In Memory of” and specify Dennis Allen.
It’s a smaller, sadder world without Dennis, who brought great enthusiasm and humor to even the most routine conversations.
Hastings Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements.