David Allen Dinneen
David Allen Dinneen was born on June 24, 1931, in Elmhurst, NY, the third and youngest son of Walter James and Anna Callahan (Costello) Dinneen. He married Nancy Anderson Lane on June 2, 1956, in Manhasset, New York, and their marriage, always characterized by lively debate, persisted across oceans and through illness until Nancy’s death on January 5, 2011.
David is survived by his daughter Kate Dinneen and son-in-law Thomas Howe; daughter Barb Dinneen and son-in-law Craig Mellinger; son Steve Dinneen and daughter-in-law Jennifer Ball; grandchildren Xander Casad and wife Rebekah Casad, Matilda Casad, Bridget Casad and partner Chris Denton, and Zizi Ball; great-grandchildren James and Scarlett Casad; and dear friend and companion Emily Russell.
David earned a BA in French from Queens College in 1952, an MA in Romance Languages from the University of Kansas in 1954, and a PhD in Linguistics from Harvard University in 1962. While earning his doctorate, he worked on machine translation at MIT with Noam Chomsky, whom he respected as a linguist and came to agree with on geopolitics as the 1960s and 1970s unfolded. David was a Professor of French and Linguistics at the University of Kansas for four decades, serving as Chair of the Department of French and Italian, Chair of the Department of Linguistics, and energetic critic of administrators. He mentored hundreds of graduate students in the art and style of teaching foreign language and led multiple summer study abroad trips for undergraduates; he remained in close touch with many former students throughout his life.
As the third son of an Irish Catholic family, David naturally inclined towards the priesthood, and did indeed spend a year in St. Anselm’s, a Benedictine seminary in New Hampshire, preparing to join the order. But love—he had met fellow New Yorker Nancy Lane at KU where they were both pursuing MAs—intervened. Or was it a disinclination to take the vow of obedience? Regardless, David proposed to Nancy, requested early draft into the military, and found himself in the Army Counter Intelligence Corps in Saigon, Vietnam. Not one to be left behind, Nancy joined him in Saigon, and there, in March 1957, they welcomed their eldest child, Kate.
David hated traveling. He was quite the worrier. But he loved living in new places. Summer sojourns as a youth at Camp Rising Sun in upstate New York cultivated his appreciation for cultural diversity, and he sought that for himself and his family throughout his adulthood. He lived and worked in France, Spain, Corsica; traveled throughout Italy, Lithuania, Czechoslovakia, Ireland, the United Kingdom, North Africa; he and Nancy eventually bought a home in the village of Kersell, on the coast of Brittany, France, where family, friends, students, and colleagues enjoyed Muscadet, langoustines, croissants, and rousing games of boules with the neighbors. Though Nancy’s disability cut short their Kersell years, David’s affinity for the region never faded. In the weeks before he died, in fact, he finished translating the memoir of a priest from the village who had worked with the French Underground during the German Occupation.
David loved baseball. He wrote a baseball memoir when he retired, touching on his years coaching in Lawrence youth baseball leagues and recounting his long, slow conversion from the Brooklyn Dodgers to the Kansas City Royals. He was very glad, a day or so before he exhaled his last breath, to see Salvy drive in some well-earned runs.
David loved his faith. He was a long-time member of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church and had a deep appreciation for the monks of St. Benedict’s Abbey in Atchison, Kansas, where he attended many an Easter vigil.
Finally, David loved his family. He wasn’t much for sentimental gushing, but his generosity, care, and dry humor all reflected his abiding love—and he got really practiced, by the end, at saying the words “I love you” out loud.
A Rosary will be recited at 6:00 p.m. with visitation to follow until 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 31, 2023 at Warren-McElwain Mortuary in Lawrence. A funeral mass will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, June 1, 2023, at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 1234 Kentucky Street, Lawrence, KS, 66044.
Memorial contributions in David’s name to St. Benedict’s Abbey, Atchison, KS; St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, Lawrence, KS; or Theatre Lawrence may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th St., Lawrence, KS 66044.