by Olivia Stipe, Student Public Relations Writer
In October of 2021, Cedarville University’s beloved professor and long-time pillar of the English department Dr. Donald Deardorff passed away unexpectedly. Two years later, just days from the anniversary of his passing, the English department remembered his legacy with a tree-planting ceremony on Saturday, Oct. 7.
Deardorff served at Cedarville for 25 years, teaching classes in American literature and criticism and the senior seminar in English. Deardorff’s legacy is one of excellence, dedication and kindness. Although he was an established figure, he made himself available to students as someone that they could talk to and was known for praying for his students at every opportunity and offering them continued support.
The memorial tree was planted within the view of the classroom where Deardorff often taught. The 70 students and alumni present at the memorial were a testament to multiple generations of impact from Deardorff.
The ceremony included a few speakers who shared testimonies of Deardorff on their time at Cedarville. Several alumni were in attendance, including Rachel Benefiel, the first recipient of the Don and Julie Deardorff English Scholarship. The scholarship is an annually funded scholarship in Deardorff’s honor intended to encourage and support language arts education students. Deardorff’s legacy of support and encouragement is continued through the scholarship.
“The responses I’ve seen from the people who knew and loved Dr. Deardorff mirror what he was,” said Rachel. “That's what legacy is. We carry on a partial reflection of what somebody was at their best. The kindness, sensitivity, humble service, genuine striving in prayer, and intentional support I saw in those weeks after his passing painted a beautiful, telling picture of who Dr. Deardorff had been.”
Deardorff’s sudden passing came as a shock to students and faculty alike, and his absence is still felt in the department. The presence that he brought to the department was unique, and he consistently served students and faculty well and invested in their lives. He was known for not just asking for prayer requests but remembering and following up on students’ lives. “Dr. Deardorff has influenced my life and my colleagues' lives by modeling what scholarship seasoned with humility looks like,” said Michelle Wood, Professor of English. “I will never forget that.”
Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University is an accredited, Christ-centered, Baptist institution with an enrollment of 5,456 undergraduate, graduate, and dual-enrolled high school students in more than 175 areas of study including the Department of English, Literature and Modern Languages. Founded in 1887, Cedarville is one of the largest private universities in Ohio, recognized nationally for its authentic Christian community, rigorous academic programs, high graduation and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings, and the #4 national ranking by the Wall Street Journal for student engagement. For more information about the University, visit cedarville.edu.