by Anna Harman
Professor of English Dr. Donald Deardorff passed away suddenly on the morning of October 22, 2021. He served in the Department of English, Literature and Modern Languages for 25 years at Cedarville University.
His wife, Julie, who is the Director of Library Collection Services for Cedarville, shared some memories of her husband.
“I admired everything about him,” she said. “We met my freshman/his sophomore year at Gettysburg College, and we both knew almost immediately that God had brought us together. Don was incredibly kind, thoughtful, funny and smart. He took amazing care of me and brought me great joy every day.”
She said that he challenged his students because he knew they had the potential to become better writers and thinkers. He experienced such delight watching them succeed in a wide variety of professions, and he appreciated that several of his students kept him as part of their lives after graduation.
Senior Madelyn Schaffer was one of Dr. Deardorff’s students. She shared some memories of her time knowing and learning from him. She admired his ability to make everyone feel like his favorite student. Deardorff also cultivated a classroom that was genuinely honest, comfortable and academic-focused. Schaffer truly believed that he was one of the most sincere, passionate, understanding and knowledgeable professors at Cedarville. Nearly everyone who sat in Deardorff’s classroom felt valued, special and heard.
“He taught me the importance of having opinions and standing for those opinions even when they are in opposition to others,” said Schaffer. “He taught me the importance of pursuing my calling and seeking Christ in all that I do. He was one of my favorite professors at Cedarville and had an inexplicable impact on my life and desire to teach in the inner city. We will all miss him dearly.”
Senior Ellie Adams also was Deardorff’s student, and she was heavily impacted by his teaching and kindness.
She believes that people should remember his caring heart. Deardorff prayed for her family throughout the COVID pandemic, something that Adams noticed few people took the time to do. He once stopped her class early so that he could ask how he and the class could properly care for her when her parents were in the hospital. He regularly asked each individual student how they were doing, what concerts they were going to, what they were having for lunch and how their field experiences were going.
Adams said, “After a long summer break, he asked me about a very small personal issue that I had entirely forgotten about. That was Dr. Donald Deardorff. He was one of the best men I have ever met, and I am so grateful I had the privilege of getting to know him as closely as I did. I can confidently say that I am a better person and will be a better teacher because I knew Dr. Donald Deardorff.”
Junior Cedarville student Abby Moore had Dr. Deardorff as a professor for only a short time, but she still had several admirable things to say about him. She shared that it was clear to her that Deardorff deeply loved his wife Julie. Every time he talked about her, he’d light up and tell the class just how kindhearted and incredible she is. Moore doesn’t believe that there was a single class that Deardorff didn’t mention his wife.
“He was one of the most caring people I’ve ever met. He would start each class by going around and asking us each how we were doing. It wasn’t surface level, either. He really wanted to know what was troubling us and would remember what we told him and continue to check up with us in subsequent classes,” Moore said.
Cedarville Professor of English Dr. Scott Calhoun said, “Dr. Deardorff was a great friend and role model for me in the department. He was a fine scholar and a wonderful teacher, and he integrated his faith and God’s word so seamlessly that his insights into literature were always edifying.”
Another Professor of English Dr. Michelle Wood said, “I have learned from Dr. Deardorff that strength is best reflected in a gentle spirit.”
Dr. Deardorff kept Romans 14:13 close to his heart. It says, “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.”
Please continue praying for Deardorff’s wife Julie, his sister-in-law Becky Dufresne, Associate Registrar for Records and Registration, and also for his many colleagues and students. Dr. Deardorff was loved by so many and undoubtedly left a lasting impression on this school and the Cedarville family.
Anna Harman is a sophomore Biblical Studies major and also a reporter for Cedars. She appreciates writing, getting coffee and going to concerts.