Obituary: Dean Lowe May

Published: Friday, May 9 2003 12:00 a.m. MDT

4/6/38~5/6/03

Dean L. May died on May 6, 2003 after a heart attack.

He was born in Worland Wyoming on April 6, 1938 to Frank Peter and Wanda Lowe May. At age nine, Dean and his family moved to a farm near Middleton, Idaho, west of Boise.

Dean spoke fondly of getting up at 5:00 a.m. each morning to milk the cows. Such repetitive tasks allowed him "good thinking time." He was less fond of thinning sugar beets, pitching hay, and the many other arduous tasks required on a poor, 40 acre farm. He was aching to see the world beyond the farm described in the New Wonder World books his loving parents bought for him. He went off to BYU after high school, graduating at the head of his college in 1964. He also served an LDS mission in Northern California and spent six months in Paris and Berlin learning to speak French and German. While a graduate history student in Cambridge, Mass., he started dating Cheryll Lynn, a friend from BYU who was also attending graduate school in the area. They were married in the Oakland LDS Temple in August, 1967.

After receiving his Ph.D. in History from Brown University, Dean and the family moved to Salt Lake City, where he went to work for the History Division of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, under then Church Historian Leonard Arrington. He was one of the bright young scholars who contributed to what Dean termed the "Arrington Spring" in Mormon History studies. In 1977, Dean accepted a position in the History Department at the University of Utah, specializing in American social and cultural history, Utah and Mormon History and community studies. He was an extraordinary scholar and teacher, receiving a number of recognition's for his publications and several teaching awards, including the Ramona Cannon Award as the outstanding teacher in the College of Humanities.

His influence went beyond the thousands of University of Utah students he taught over the years. In 1985 he completed a 20 segment series on Utah History called A People's History of Utah. The series, which still is viewed in hundreds of Utah classrooms and on Channel 9, sought to bring to life Utah's fascinating and unique human story. The series won over 40 international, national and regional awards. In 1996, with support from Larry Miller, he completed the Utah Remembers series for Channel 14, commemorating the hundredth anniversary of Utah statehood. He also contributed to scores of other video projects exploring the history of Utah, the Mormons and the West. In 2002 he was honored as the Pioneer of Progress in Historic and Creative Arts by the Days of '47 awards committee.

He served as member and chair of the State Board of History and in 2001-2002 as President of the Mormon History Association. He was awarded two Fullbright Lectureships, one to Bonn Germany in 1991, and one to Cairo, Egypt in 1998. One of his most memorable recent adventures was as the teacher and ship president on the Christian Radich, three-masted sailing ship during the Sea Trek 2001 reenactment of the Mormon Pioneer sea voyage from Europe to America in the pre-steam era. Several of his journal entries from the voyage were published the Tribune.

He deeply loved choral music and sang for the last eight years in the Utah Symphony Chorus. He also enjoyed playing his trumpet, and was often joined by the family dog Biscuit in a blaring, howling version of Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White. He never liked crowds and was happiest in the wilderness of the west. As a young man attending a Mormon temple, he was confused at the bleak wilderness scene on a mural designated as the lone and dreary world. He thought it looked like the Garden of Eden. He was an avid gardener, and worked with a perfectionist's exactitude on many home construction projects.

He was an active Latter-day Saint, serving as a Bishop and in other church positions throughout his life. One of the most satisfying was his four year calling on the University Fifth Stake High Council, where his long experience with LDS students gave him special insights about their particular needs and concerns.

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS