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.

33 Condolences

  1. Christie McDaniel Novak on May 18, 2023 at 2:06 pm

    What a beautiful tribute to an amazing man. D.A.D. will always hold a special place in my heart. My deepest condolences, love and prayers to the whole family.

    Signed “Cindy”

  2. Barbara Smiley on May 18, 2023 at 6:06 pm

    Thinking of David’s family and friends at this sad time, but was delighted to read his story. Wishing you all peace and sending love from our family. ❤

  3. Cheri Thompson on May 18, 2023 at 6:27 pm

    Oh Kate! Your Dad was amazing and certainly lived a full and adventurous life. I’m sorry that he passed, You’ll miss him dearly and will always carry his spirit in your heart. With Sympathy and Friendship, Cheri Thompson

  4. Stephen Johnson on May 18, 2023 at 8:51 pm

    So sorry, Kate. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  5. Sarah Goodwin Thiel on May 18, 2023 at 11:19 pm

    What a rich and knowing tribute, Barb. So much love to you, Xander, Mattie, Bridgie, Kate, and Steve.
    Your dad was one of a kind, to be sure.

  6. Rick Frydman on May 19, 2023 at 5:33 am

    I’m sorry that I never met your Dad. He sounds wonderful. Left behind some great kids and grandkids.

  7. Kathy Comfort on May 19, 2023 at 8:48 am

    Beautiful written. He was an inspiration to me in my career and in those of so many people. He left a very positive imprint on so many of us!

  8. Betty Edwards on May 19, 2023 at 8:51 am

    Kate, I remember you speaking so highly and fondly of your father at one of Walt’s picnics. What a full and varied life he led. I’m sorry I didn’t get to know him but no doubt knew a small part of him through you. My sympathy to you and your family.

  9. Nancy Marie Wood on May 19, 2023 at 2:10 pm

    Professor Dineen was my advisor when I began my M.A. studies at K.U. I was so intimidated and overwhelmed at first that I wasn’t sure I was up to the challenge of graduate studies. But Dr. Dineen kindly encouraged me to persevere. And I did. His kindness and patience I have never forgotten. May his memory be a blessing.

  10. Kevin Brooking on May 19, 2023 at 3:17 pm

    Je vais m’exprimer dans la langue des philosophes et savants…David a eu une vie incroyable et son voyage dans ce monde était noble, juste, honnête et sincere. Il a eu une belle famille et ses enfants étaient un symbole de sa caractère et ses valeurs. Il est en train de corriger ce texte j’en suis sur… Pardon cher David pour les fautes. Les meilleurs élèves porte les traces de vos recherches profondes et ton amour pour l’education. Je vous pris d’accepter mes salutations les plus admiratives, Kevin Brooking

  11. Kevin Brooking on May 19, 2023 at 3:30 pm

    I’m sure he and Jack could be planning some Moliere to amuse themselves in the heavens.

  12. Helen Pendleton Rumbaut on May 19, 2023 at 6:52 pm

    I got my B.A. in French from the University of Kansas in 1971. Professor Dinneen was one of my favorite French teachers. He had such a deep love of French language and culture, and imparted it to us with enthusiasm. He helped me receive the Junior Year Abroad scholarship to Bordeaux, France. David was a huge asset to KU, and to the Department of French & Italian, as it was then called. He definitely made a mark on my life, for the better. My deepest condolences to all his loved ones; may they receive the peace that only Christ can offer.

  13. Cathy Schlifer on May 19, 2023 at 10:02 pm

    What a beautiful tribute to your dad. I had the pleasure of his tutelage and kind support as one of the teaching assistants at KU. I will never forget his billets doux, and was specially treated as he asked me to be a scorer for the little league in Lawrence. Your dad stepped up to be my DAD (his nom de plume for his underlings) at a time when I didn’t even know I needed that. I am sorry for our collective loss, but oh so grateful for having known him. God bless you all.

  14. Betty and Bob Soppelsa on May 19, 2023 at 10:57 pm

    David was a marvelous friend and mentor to us. We had many happy moments with David and Nancy during our long friendship—both in Lawrence and Kersell. David contributed years of advice and support to Betty at the Applied English Center, which strengthened our language teacher education and enhanced the campus experience of hundreds of international students and scholars. His intellect and his dedication to second/foreign language teaching never failed. We shared David and Nancy’s love of France and the French language. David was unforgettable. We will miss him. May he rest In peace.

  15. Stéphanie Richard on May 20, 2023 at 12:25 am

    I will never forget you Professeur Dinneen. Father figure, excellent teacher of “La chanson de Roland” in ancient French, I still remember your course and the way you were able to make a medieval text so captivating, you were unique. You leaving this world is such an immense sadness. Such a character.
    In my heart, always.

  16. Sheila Meggison on May 20, 2023 at 10:39 am


    I am so sorry to hear of your dad’s passing. My deepest condolences.

  17. Donato Fhunsu on May 20, 2023 at 4:10 pm

    Le souffle de D.A.D.

    Comme le disait Birago Diop,
    Les morts ne sont pas morts.
    Ils sont dans les élans de nos pensées
    Et dans les secousses of de nos émotions.
    Ils sont dans les leçons de vie
    Qu’ils nous ont enseignées.
    Et comme la Vie toujours
    Continue son train de chemin,
    Ils seront dans les leçons de vie
    Que nous, à notre tour,
    Enseignerons aux enfants de la Vie.
    C’est ainsi que souffle
    Le souffle de D.A.D.,
    Car encore,
    Comme le disait Birago Diop,
    Les morts ne sont jamais morts.

  18. Eric T. Reynolds on May 20, 2023 at 4:11 pm

    I’m sorry to hear of Monsieur Dinneen’s passing. He was my Intensive French professor at KU in 1979. Through his and his team’s instruction, I reached intermediate level in French, which helped in my travels.

    He kept us engaged during class and made us laugh. One time, I was late for class and he was a few feet from the door. I walked in…

    “Monsieur Reynolds! Vous etes en retard [=late]!”
    Turning to the class: “Il est on retard!”
    My embarrassment over, I went to my seat.

    Before finals, I met with him.
    “What I see is you’re probably going to get a B in the class,” he said.
    But…I got an A, 16 hours of A!
    When the semester ended, he had a party at his house.
    I went to his wife and told her that he talked about her in class.
    She went to him and said, “David, c’est ca?”
    He tried to explain, pretending to be embarrassed.
    Funny guy. I saw him on campus a few years later and talked for a while, told him of my travels to France. He wished me well and ended with something witty…can’t remember exactly.
    Glad I got to know him.

  19. Princess on May 20, 2023 at 7:05 pm

    What a wonderful journey your dad led. What is more wonderful is what he shared with his family-his love, his adventure, his world. A gift beyond measure. Sending deepest sympathy to you and your family .

  20. rod runyan on May 21, 2023 at 9:56 am

    I met DAD as we all called him in 1978 when i took the 16 credit hour one semester intensive French course at KU. We spent 20 hours a week in the classroom at Nunemaker. Simply put it was the finest educational experience i ever had and DAD was the main reason. He was dashing, dynamic and demanding. I have seen him many times over the subsequent years but whenever i think of him that is where my mind takes me. I’ve had the good fortune to come to know most of his children and some of his grand children in the 45 years since then and i am very sorry for his passing and your loss. He was an inspiration in my life.

  21. Janice Andes on May 21, 2023 at 5:35 pm

    Janice Andes
    When I first started in the French & Italian Department as the Office Mgr. David was the Chair. It took me awhile to understand his humor and leadership but it didn’t take long before he won me over. He was always kind and very considerate. We shared many iteresting conversations while at work and long after he retired. I felt honored to bring him communion on Sundays when he could no longer attend Mass. I’ll miss his funny e-mails and lively spirit.
    Rest in peace my friend and may God bless your family.

  22. Ronald W Tobin on May 23, 2023 at 3:37 pm

    David’s death is a shocker for me and my wife. David greeted me as a new faculty member at KU in 1963 and, more important, as a fellow New Yorker and Gemini. He and Nancy, Ann and I dined and danced in Kansas City (he taught us the difference between the Lindy and the Lindy Hop!), and he introduced us to the local Catholic parish. Our six years in Lawrence went by too rapidly but with enough time for David and I to play Squash on a typical Lawrence day: 80 degrees at the beginning of the match and 40 when we left the court. David was the soul of the French staff for decades and trained the TAs admirably well. Before we left Lawrence for the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1969, we were privileged to serve as the Godparents for the Dinneen’s son. Time has kept us apart, but the memories are bright and shiny. Ave et atque, David.

  23. Shirley Stephens-Mock on May 24, 2023 at 6:23 pm

    I was very sorry to hear of your Dad’s leaving this World, Kate, but it sounds as though he’s probably going to have a pretty good time in the Next. God’s peace, blessing, and comfort to you and your family, always.

  24. Mark Howe on May 26, 2023 at 7:11 pm

    I remember visiting David and Nancy in Kersel in the summer of 1996. One evening before supper, he said, “You want to play boules.” I erroneously thought he was asking a question, and when I said I’d never played before but that I’d be willing to give it a try, he said, looking at me intently and seriously , “Correct answer.” He and a couple of others and I played. It was huge fun for me — although it wasn’t immediately clear that he was enjoying playing with a neophyte. I was glad to have known him the little bit I did.

  25. Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg on May 28, 2023 at 10:29 am

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Kate and Barb. What a force of nature, and I’m also sorry I never got to know him. Wishing you and yours love, comfort, and meaning in and beyond this time.

  26. Donato Fhunsu on May 28, 2023 at 2:15 pm

    D.A.D.’s Breath

    As Birago Diop liked to remind us,
    The dead are not dead.
    They dwell in the hills of our thoughts
    And in the valleys of our emotions.
    They dwell in the life lessons
    They, master teachers, have taught us.
    Because Life ever continues its journey,
    They will dwell in the life lessons
    We, master teachers-inspired,
    Will teach to the children of Life.
    So does D.A.D.’s breath
    Ever continue its breath,
    Because again,
    As Birago Diop liked to remind us,
    The dead are never dead.

  27. Donato Fhunsu on May 28, 2023 at 2:27 pm

    El aliento de D.A.D.

    Como lo decía Birago Diop,
    Los muertos no están muertos.
    Moran en las cimas de nuestros pensamientos
    Y en los valles de nuestros sentimientos.
    Moran en las lecciones de vida
    Que, maestros docentes,
    Nos han enseñado.
    Como la Vida siempre sigue su camino,
    Morarán en las lecciones de vida
    Que, nosotras y nosotros,
    Volando sobre la eterna inspiración
    De dichos maestros docentes,
    Enseñaremos a las hijas e hijos de la Vida.
    Así sigue el aliento de D.A.D.
    Esparciendo su aliento,
    Porque, como otra vez lo decía Birago Diop,
    Los muertos nunca están muertos.

  28. Hope Christiansen on June 1, 2023 at 10:06 pm

    Oh DAD. You changed my life and helped shape my career as a professor. During our time in the PhD program, Kathy Comfort and I made it our job to get a rise out of you, either by making you laugh or, preferably, grossing you out. You’d walk out of the room with a loud, exasperated “oh, maannnn!!” And then, our work was done. May baseball, great food and wine, and good friends surround you in heaven. GBH

  29. Cindy Schmidt on June 3, 2023 at 5:38 pm

    Kate, I am so sorry to hear of the passing of your dad. He was a wonderful man that I am so thankful to have known. You and your family are in my thought and prayers.

  30. Ray Petty on June 30, 2023 at 8:45 am

    Kate and Thomas — Lynette just forwarded this to me from the Lawrence Times. Didn’t know him but love you two and we know what it is like to lose our parents. Looking forward to pickleball again at East Lawrence once summer break is over. Thomas — do you play?

  31. Steph Dragoje on July 18, 2023 at 8:28 am

    “For Pete’s sake, you didn’t push the submit button ?” That’s what DAD (as we, humble GTA’s called him) would have said to me after I’d failed to submit my condolences two months ago. He would have appreciated the past perfect in my previous sentence, though…and the past conditional in this one.
    “Tinkers to Evans to Dragoje,” I once said. He replied “no Chance!” And we laughed. We loved baseball, linguistics, grammar, teaching and being left-handed. Ce n’est pas parce que l’on est MALadroit que l’on est gauche.
    Because he touched and influenced us so much, DAD still lives in us.

  32. Jeff Spires on November 21, 2023 at 6:46 pm

    I really liked DAD and always enjoyed spending time with him. I still remember being his assistant coach in youth baseball (the team was horrible, but we had fun). Beyond that, DAD was instrumental in helping me with my career path, both as a professor of French, and as a professor in general.

    He has both directly and indirectly touched thousands of young lives, and in many important ways he lives on.

    That’s pretty cool, and so was DAD.

  33. Norm Watt on December 3, 2023 at 11:12 am

    Very sad to hear of David’s passing. We got to know each other during my frequent visits to Kersell, with wonderful meals there, playing boules, and reminiscing about our beloved Brooklyn Dodgers. David’s crustiness masked his loving spirit and loyalty to friends. Sincere condolences to his family and all who knew him.

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