Adams State dedicates McDaniel Hall

(08-17-2012)

In 1967, a brand new history professor from Texas began teaching in a brand new building at Adams State College. Although at the time he couldn’t imagine he would spend the rest of his career in Alamosa, Colorado, Dr. John E. McDaniel continued to teach in that building for 40 years, until his retirement in 2007. On Aug. 17, that building, formerly the Education & Social Sciences (ES) building was rededicated in his honor.

“This man has donated his heart, his soul, and his lifetime fortune to helping students,” said Adams State University President David Svaldi at the dedication of McDaniel Hall. Through the second largest donation in Adams State’s history, in 2010 McDaniel established the McDaniel Scholarship Trust to fund student scholarships. He previously created 40 McDaniel Scholarship funds through the Adams State University Foundation.

Last year, the ES Building was completely gutted and transformed into a welcoming, light filled educational environment equipped with the latest teaching technology. In late 2010, the Adams State Board of Trustees voted to rename the building in McDaniel’s honor. McDaniel received the Billy Adams Award that same year.

A new building sign created by Art Professor Dana Provence was unveiled at the conclusion of the dedication of McDaniel Hall. Four former and current presidents joined Dr. John E. McDaniel at the celebration. From left: Dr. J. Thomas Gilmore, McDaniel, Dr. John Marvel, Dr. David Svaldi, and Dr. William Fulkerson.

“Dr. John,” as many alumni fondly refer to him, did not merely teach. He inspired. He motivated. He mentored. He helped many move on not to only stellar careers, but to lives enlightened by learning.

Dr. Ed Crowther, professor and chair of the Adams State history department, read remarks sent by one of McDaniel’s most illustrious former students, Dr. Gary Gallagher, a 1972 Adams State graduate who is now the John L. Nau III Professor in the History of the American Civil War at University of Virginia.

“It was John’s passion that most inspired me. His passion for history, for teaching, and for books. I’d never met someone who owned so many history books,” Gallagher wrote.

Crowther added that, “most students positively raved about McDaniel’s teaching.”

Dr. William Rakow, a retired therapist and 1969 Adams State graduate, concurred: “He instilled the thirst for knowledge in his students. He became my intellectual model. I am in awe of him to this day.”

Former students told of a special relationship with McDaniel that has endured over the decades. Jerry Crisci, a 1970 graduate who is now New York restaurateur, tutored a fellow history student who became his wife of 42 years. “Dr. John is very much like family to us. He is our first child’s godfather.”

Vicki Ford, a 1971 graduate retired from teaching and farming, added: “He adopted all of us, and our children.”

McDaniel filled the role of father for James Johnson, a 2007graduate whose father died just before he started college. “My dad was also one of Dr. John’s students. You never stop being his student.”

Ford also praised McDaniel’s “generous bequest” that will assure many more students receive a college education. “May your legacy and teaching skills live on in this building,” she said.

By Julie Waechter