Pioneer Press Obituary

This appeared on page 7B of the 22-Mar-2002 St. Paul Pioneer Press. It looked like this. I never did manage to find it on their web site, so I'm reproducing it here.

John Dyer-Bennet, retired Carleton math professor
Pioneer Press

John Dyer-Bennet, a longtime math professor at Carleton College who died this week, was remembered Wednesday as a demanding teacher with high expectations not only for his students' math proofs but for the language they used to describe them.

It made Dyer-Bennet at times an imposing figure on the Northfield campus, where other professors may have allowed students to call them by their first names but he went by the more formal "Professor Dyer-Bennet."

"He embodied what I thought a professor would be," said former student Christopher Payne, who said Dyer-Bennet provided an important influence during a difficult freshman year in 1988. "The gruff persona, to me, masked a great deal of care for his students."

Dyer-Bennet died Tuesday of prostate cancer at the age of 86.

He officially retired in 1980 after teaching at Carleton for 20 years. But he continued teaching a math course each term for no salary for another 13 years. He also coached tennis and soccer, amassing a 88-57-27 record in soccer.

"He was old school in his ways," said college president Stephen R. Lewis Jr. "He had this terrific following of students, both out of his teaching and coaching. He was someone just devoted to the intellectual life of the college."

Dyer-Bennet was born in England and moved to California with his family when he was 10. Before coming to Carleton Dyer-Bennet taught at Vanderbilt and Purdue universities. He specialized in linear and abstract algebra.

He also served in the U.S. Army during World War II and the Korean War. He continued serving in the reserves and retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

In a 1990 interview, he said he was always drawn to teaching at the college level.

"When I teach, I feel I am part of an operation that seems to matter. I'm not living for myself, but I'm part of a group that matters," he said.

That love was one reason he kept teaching beyond retirement, said his wife, Mary Dyer-Bennet. "He didn't care if he was paid or not."

She added: "He was popular but within math he had a certain reputation for being difficult. But there were students who appreciated that. He did not allow them to be sloppy."

Besides his wife, he is survived by his son, David, of Minneapolis; daughter, Barbara, of Renville County; and sister, Miriam May, of Victoria, British Columbia.

A memorial service is planned for 4 p.m. May 3 in Skinner Memorial Chapel.

David Dyer-Bennet <>
Last modified: Mon May 20 01:17:37 CDT 2002