MEMORIES OF A FRIEND


As requested, we have had many folks submit quotes and thoughts. The quotes will be added to the site in short order on the Bohnenkamp Canned Wisdom page and the memories will be shared here.



Dennis was truly a man for all people. As a teacher Dennis would nurture your development for success beyond the classroom or lecture hall. As a friend he always had time to listen, give advice, write that letter of recommendation, tell a story, or simply share a laugh. As a person who had "been there and done that" he wanted to help others "go there and do that". In a world of closed doors Dennis' was always open. Dennis is one we'll miss.

Todd Appel, '99



It's been a year or so since I've talked to Bohnenkamp, and I regret that.

  After I finished college (six and a half years after I started; about average for an UMSL student), I made a list of people, mostly faculty and staff, who I intended to sit down one day and write long letters to, thanking them for being a part of my life. Bohnenkamp was on that list, and I never got around to writing his letter, and I regret that.  

As a freshman, I turned an 8-page paper into a 10-page paper for his class using margin and font tricks, and now I suppose I regret that, too. I bet he knew what I did, though, and let me slide.  

Not that I want this webpage to turn into a "Bohnenkamp was totally sweet because he used to let students blow off their responsibilities for his classes" type of thing (although I always knew it was ok to turn in a late paper if it's because you stayed up all night writing an article for the Brain Stew), so here are the things I DON'T regret:  

The finest paper I have ever written was for one of his classes. The class was called "Modernism," and my paper was on the book "A Clockwork Orange."  

One of my favorite photos of me was taken by Bohnenkamp.  

He once bought me a Vanilla Ice CD for Christmas or my birthday or something. He was very proud that it only cost $1.00.  

And Lala, I can out-do you on the car: he once let me borrow it. The Seabring. Seriously. Albeit, I was only allowed to drive it to the gas station and back, and he knew the mileage, but still. I drove the Seabring once. With the top down. He had Sonic Youth in the tape deck at the time.   

After I got the phone call last week, I turned to my boss and said: "It's a sad day for academia. One of the greatest teachers in America is dead." I then went on to awkwardly explain how he was "sorta like UMSL's own Hunter S. Thompson," which was the best comparison I could think of at the moment. My boss didn't know who Hunter S. Thompson was, and I couldn't think of much else to say.  

I had the honor of introducing him to the "freshers" at a New Student Orientation one year. I said, "And now, the man, the myth, the Bohnenkamp." I suppose those words don't even scratch the surface, but they're a pretty good summation of who he was to those who knew him.  

I remember that his favorite movie was "Shakes the Clown," and that he listened to music like "Space is the Place" by Sun-Ra. And that he rarely ever saw movies in the theatre, but one that he did, "There's Something About Mary" was found to be hilarious in his opinion.  

I remember reading everything from "Neuromancer" to "Ulysses" in his classes, and I still have my copy of "An Incomplete Education," which I still use all the time.  

I remember the weird bionic woman sitting on a chair in his office, the bottle of "bullshit repellent" on his bookshelf, and the fact that he had his own private restroom in his office.  

I remember sitting in his office, over and over, trying desparately to figure out why I didn't have my act together. I remember his listening, his encouragement, and I remember leaving the office knowing that he cared.  

I remember having a girlfriend for several months who came to UMSL via the National Student Exchange, i.e., Bohnenkamp's doing. Yep; he even had the hookup with the ladies.  

I remember the Brain Stew trying to decide whether he looked more like Einstein or Colonel Sanders. Either way, he's in great company, if you ask me.  

I remember how the Brain Stew articles of my era used to regularly get the Honors College in trouble with the university administration, and how you always knew that deep down, Bohnenkamp thought the articles were great.  

I remember the quotes: any time he opened his mouth, the chances were good you were going to hear something like "when they talk about Nazi Architecture, they show a picture of our campus."  

And I remember the way he laughed, choking off the last couple syllables of whatever he was saying because he knew it was as funny as you did.  

I remember how he regularly showed up at Casino Nights, Get Felts, Card Tournaments, Mystery Pong tournaments, etc., and how much he genuinely seemed to enjoy being there with us snotty undergrads.  

I remember that after you had spent a certain amount of time at the Honors College,  it was not only ok to invite Bohnenkamp out with "the guys," but that if you actually got him to come, it was considered somewhat of a status-increase for you or your group.  

I can't believe he's gone, I honestly can't imagine the Honors College without him, and I'm ashamed I let myself drift away from contact with the PLHC, not getting to say goodbye or ever really letting him know how much he meant to me. I know that I probably don't miss any more than most of you who are reading/contributing to this site, but that's not saying much: I miss him terribly already, and though he'd probably cringe at the cliche, the Honors College, UMSL, and all of us are a little bit worse off now that he's gone. I'm sure this would drive him crazy, but I really don't feel like looking on the bright side right now: I'm grieving. May we all "keep some sorrow in our hearts and minds for the things that die before their time."  

D. Mike Bauer



The first time I met Dennis, while scouting UMSL, he was attempting to set up all the market trappings for the Honors College on a folding table in a very nice and neat way and succeeding quite well toward utter anarchy. The next semester I understood what all the fluster was about, after walking into his office for an intial advising session! He was just too damn busy with all of us students--and his own progress toward inspiration--to fret much about the physical clutter created in the process of his (and our our) continuity. Or maybe he was just messy.... He was all about that anarchy anyway, ya know?

Dennis had a heart like they talk about finding a diamond compressed within coal...it shone with brilliance even beyond his fine mind--past the wild-haired exterior and sarcastic chuckle existed a man who you would never expect it was his heart would be what finally determined his departure.

He'll not stray far from my thoughts while exploring San Francisco...it was during his Beat Generation class that we became friends as he provided friendship and understanding while my mother was passing away. Dennis meant so much to so many of us.... For myself--l'll imagine he's browsing City Lights a minute or two before I've arrived...or walking along the Embarcadero just ahead, trading ideas with a conversant friend or loved-one, lightly and deftly...or berating and debating another with cookie-cutter opinions. Carry On.

Raymond Bloom



I'm a PLHC alum, having graduated in 2004. i spent two years editting the Brain Stew after mJosh succeeded you guys. As such, i had a lot of time to get to know Dennis, and his death has hit me especially hard. I was unaware of your site until Daron Dierkes mentioned it to me. Even during all of us medical problems, I thought d-Bohn was such a force of nature that he transcended such mortal annoyances like health. Regardless, it's good to know that he has a presence on the internet, to say nothing of the chunks embedded in the hearts and brains of hundreds of young scholars.

Keep on keeping on,

Travis Bursik



An office door that never closed, “quick PLHCSA” questions that turned into an hour of conversation, story telling that I would never be able to match, and an intellect one would be hard-pressed to find an equal.  db never failed to grab and keep my attention anytime he gave a lecture, we sat down for meetings, or simply met in the hallway of the Honors College.  He will always remain in my eyes one of the best educators I have had the privilege of being around for four years of life.  I have pages and pages of meeting notes lined with “canned wisdom,” so many in fact that I often quote db in the classes that I now teach.  A student of mine once asked if this Dennis Bohnenkamp that I quoted was someone famous she should have heard of before.  I told her no, but if she was lucky and went to the right school, she would get her chance.  It is a dark sadness to think how many generations of Honors students will not be as lucky as I was.  

It is easy to draw such a grand picture after such a man has passed to a state of being better than this world has to offer; but most of the students that were lucky enough to know him, painted this picture after just a few interactions with him.  db was actually the one who interviewed me for entrance into Honors.  I can remember being seventeen, out of my element, and extremely worried about the questions that might be asked.  As soon as we sat down, Dennis started to laugh.  The panicked look that must have crossed my face prompted him to explain, “Kim, we are very relaxed around here, how am I suppose to get to know you if you are scared to talk?”  I learned very quickly not to be scared to talk when at Honors.  My years at Honors and serving it through PLHCSA allowed me several opportunities to work closely with the faculty and staff.  I look back on my time at Honors very fondly and was very upset to be out of the country when the memorial took place; I’m sure it was a wonderful testament to his care for his students.  I will mourn the loss of Dennis Bohnenkamp in many ways; the world is now less interesting.

Kim Cowan



He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

Mike Gibson



I have just defended my Ph.D. thesis at MIT, and I am participating in the graduation ceremonies here in Boston, and unfortunately I will not be able to attend the memorial service on Sunday for Professor Bohnenkamp.

I was profoundly saddened to hear of the death of Professor Dennis Bohnenkamp. In addition to being one the most important influences on my intellectual development, he was good friend of mine. The frequent conversations Dennis and I had on all sorts of subjects ranging from literature to science, I will always remember. They created the pattern for the intellectual discussions I've had with my subsequent mentors throughout my years at Purdue, Harvard, and MIT. Whatever success I've had in the academic world, the various fellowships and awards I have received, can be attributed in no small part to the intellectual courage and love of scholarly debate that he instilled in me.

If I sent a copy of my thesis along (I may have to overnight it) with some comments on the tremendous influence Dennis had, and continues to have through his memory, on my intellectual development, could you please be sure to pass it along to his family (assuming they are attending the UMSL memorial)?

Sincerely,

David O'Gorman



I fondly remember Dennis, with Fred Faust in Fred's old Honors College office (the tiny one, with all the Native Americana) patiently talking me and my mother about the offer Pierre Laclede had made me, and which had put me and my family and my plans to attend Southwest Baptist University in a state of upheaval. Looking back on it, I can see and appreciate the mild amusement (very honest and non-derisive, mind you) in their eyes at this hayseed and his mom come to the city and just sure (at least at first) that Dennis and Fred were a two-headed devil, out to seek, kill and destroy this fine young man's good sound morals (there wasn't much mind to speak of, alas). As things turned out, it was the best deal with the devil - or perhaps I should say Lord of Misrule -- I ever made, thanks in large part to Dennis, who was my comp and non-western civ and modernism teacher. My puritanically rigorous mind often found him frustratingly casual, but he always won me over with his intellectual generosity and expansive spirit. And he generally cast a calming good humor over the place -- the kind of essential sagacity necessary when young minds go through the growing pains of discovery and dawning self-awareness. Dennis was genuinely a teacher in the sense of instructing one in the ways of intelligent living. I'm deeply grateful to him and owe to his guidance much of my early development as a functional adult.

When I taught my first section of freshman comp, one of my touchstones was the model Dennis provided over a decade ago when he was my teacher: patient, kind, taking freshmen and their wildly uneven thoughts and writing neither too seriously nor too lightly, and when in doubt, erring on the side of generosity, and disarming humor. Now, all these years later, as I prepare to move into my first faculty office, I hope for it to be, if not exactly as messy as Dennis's, certainly as welcoming and safe, and good.

Douglas Harrison



One of the highlights of my stint at UMSL and in the PLHC (1999-2004)will always be getting to know Dr. Bohnenkamp. He was easy-going, fun to talk to, and extremely intelligent -- the kind of professor I hope to be someday.

I worked in the Honors College office when I was a fresman, although I spent most of my time actually talking to Dr. Bohnenkamp. We talked of great books to read, modern and pop culture, and shared many a drinking story. The traditions continued after my fresman year and even after the switchover to Provincial House.

My fondest memory of him, however, has to be the time that Dr. Bohnenkamp met me and several other PLHC members at Cicero's in the Delmar Loop. We were taking a creative writing independent study with him, and he was there to see us workshop our work. Honestly, we mostly just sat around, ate, drank, and talked. I got to listen to him talk about his thoughts on ghosts, the afterlife, native american culture, and the 60's and 70's. The man was genius, and I will miss him.

Long live the Lord of Misrule.

Paul Huggins



He was very wise and knew how to convey sentiment with supreme artistry. For me, he was my tutor, my dean, my colleague, my mentor, and foremost my friend. He wore all those skins, but I never noticed a seam in his mosaic. Such was a testament to his endearing spirit, which pervaded his every gesture. That's why words rung sincere when he spoke them - that is, because he spoke them. He spoke words into permanence, leaving us with an enduring vestige of his being. Farewell, Dennis, and thank you for showing us nobility of spirit.

Brian King



Dennis was a great mentor for me during my days in the Honors College from 91-95. His broad knowledge and adventurous spirit (as well as his letter of recommendation) were key to me becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer after graduating from UMSL, then teaching in Istanbul and on the White Mountain Apache Reservation later.

One of my favorite memories of Dennis came when I was taking a course Dennis and Fred Fausz taught in 1994 on the 1960s. I had written a paper criticizing somewhat harshly the actions of the New Left movement. The night before I turned it in I had a dream that Dennis was offended by the paper and wrote "MEAN!" on the front of it. I told Dennis about the dream when I turned it in, and sure enough when I got it back it had "MEAN!" scrawled across the title page.

In large part because of Dennis's influence I became an English teacher. After ten years teaching in American middle schools I have come to believe that the measure of a great teacher isn't how well they can get their students to regurgitate "canned wisdom," but how they inspire their students to grow and to change. That's exactly what Dennis did for me. I'll be eternally grateful to him.

Fare thee well.

Justin Parmenter



Thanks for the tribute to a great man, Dennis Bohnenkamp. I knew him since 1972, when we were both graduate students at Bowling Green, and he remained my closest friend all those years. He will be missed. . . .

David Sowd
Canton, OH



He always left his keys in the door. Once, when he left something in his car and wanted me to go get it, he started to hand me the keys from his door, then paused.

"You're not going to drive away, are you?"

I only took one of his classes, I can't say it was the most exciting. The best part was waiting for his 'words of wisdom' to drop. I'd write them down, and at the end of the semester, had a long list to submit to the Brain Stew for their "fly on the wall" section. I wish I still had that list. Maybe I do somewhere. He assigned a paper, and the due date was right after Spring Break. I sent him a postcard from Hawaii asking for an extension. He granted it, of course. It might be urban lore, but I've heard of Bohnenkamp Extensions as long as 2 years.

During my sophomore year, I was planning to go on National Student Exchange. Hawai'i was my first pick (after that wonderful Spring Break), but you had to have three, so we were sitting in his office, looking at the map of NSE schools. California sounded good to me. He told me about being a social worker in LA, and about the Samoans there. Then he pointed to the University of CA in Hayward and said, "Do you smoke the reefer?"

He was my advisor all through college. And he always seemed to be available for last minute course changes. He also seemed very skillful at getting around those pesky university 'deadlines'.

I can't imagine the Honors College without him. The Ole Beankeeper.

I always stopped by his office when I was in town. I was there in March, but he wasn't in. Dean Bliss said he was cutting back on his hours, wasn't around as much. I didn't get to see him.

Lala Stone



I was the Critical Analysis T.A. for the last section of Western Cultural Traditions that Dennis taught (Spring 2006). I only spoke with him a few times, mostly in an official capacity. But, I found him to be good-humored, attentive, dedicated to his students, and generally warm. I was sad to hear that he had passed on. To the people who knew him better, I offer my sympathy, and the wisdom of Mithrandir at the Grey Havens in Tolkien's LOTR:
"Go in peace! I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil."
I pray that Dennis and his family (loved ones and colleagues) will rest content in the glow of a well lived life. Aude Sepera.

A.P. Taylor



dear denny:

i want to express the memories of you i cherish most:

he said when showing me pictures of his ex: she looked better when she was younger.
i said: you probably did too
he said: yeah probably
i said: it's late
he said: yeah i know
i said: people need to know how to write
he said: so you want to bring grammar to the masses?
i said: i want to teach in prison
he said: that's no way to meet dangerous men
he said: its been two years
I said: yeah that sounds right
I said: it'll be phat
he said: it could have been better
I asked: really what do you think?
he said: look how far you've come

i'll miss you

jenny wynn



If you'd like to share your own thoughts and memories of Dennis, sent them to us:

submissions@cannedwisdom.com