John McDaniel

Dr. John Edgar McDaniel, Jr.

Monday, October 10th, 1932 - Tuesday, May 2nd, 2023
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9. Miscellaneous

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Please share your favorite memory of John to be included in a special keepsake book for the family.
John Edgar McDaniel, Jr., long-time Adams State professor and philanthropist, passed away on May 2, 2023. He was born October 10, 1932, in Decatur, Texas, the son of John Edgar McDaniel and Vivian Randolph McDaniel. He graduated from Coleman (Texas) High School in 1950. Dr. McDaniel earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Texas Christian University and then studied French culture and civilization at the University of Strasbourg on a Fulbright Grant. Subsequently, he served as an officer in the US Air Force before enrolling at Harvard to study government and politics. Dr. McDaniel temporarily deferred his graduate studies at Harvard to work in John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign, before serving in the Kennedy White House and later as Chief of Staff to an Oregon congressman Al Ullman. After his career in Washington and spurred by an illness in his family, he returned to Texas in 1964 and enrolled in a Ph. D. program in history at the University of Texas, which conferred his doctoral degree in 1970. He joined the Adams State University faculty in 1967, where he taught for the next forty years. Adams State recognized McDaniel as emeritus professor of history at Adams State in 2007.

“Dr. John,” as he was fondly known, generously supported students through exemplary teaching and philanthropy. Beginning in the 1990s he began a scholarship endowment that now features 40 scholarships. Among those beneficiaries is Dr. David Tandberg, President of Adams State, who credits the McDaniel Scholarship he received as the primary reason he could persist at Adams State and graduate. Currently, the McDaniel Scholarship Trust continues to benefit the students at Adams, with twenty-eight students recently awarded scholarships for the 2023-24 academic year. In 2012, the newly renovated Education and Social Sciences Building was dedicated as the John E. McDaniel Hall in his honor. In 2014, McDaniel endowed the McDaniel Fellows program, a student intern program, which places students in campus and community employment while they complete their undergraduate degrees. In 2019, John was inducted into the Coleman Independent School District Hall of Fame, a measure of his career as an educator and philanthropist.

After his retirement, Dr. McDaniel joined the Adams State University Foundation, and was serving as vice-president and chairing the Nominating Committee at the time of his decease. In the last 30 years, his financial contributions to Adams State equaled one million dollars to date. From 1995 to 2007, he served as Faculty Marshall and was instrumental in revamping the commencement ceremony proceedings.
An avid reader, devotee of the opera and cinema, Dr. McDaniel is survived by James D. Johnson and numerous students, including Gary Gallagher, Vickie Ford, Tom Bruscino, and scores of others. His survivors remember his intellect and wit, and his favorite swear word: “Bear’s butt,” which he uttered in response to evidence-free opinions in his classes. John was preceded in death by his parents and a foster-son, Clyde Calvin Carstens.

Adams State University will conduct a memorial service on June 10, 2023, at 10:00 a. m. in Richardson Hall Auditorium. (The memorial will be live streamed—more information to follow). In lieu of flowers, please support and commemorate Dr. McDaniel by donating to the Adams State University Foundation at or scan the QR code on the photo's page.

Rogers Family Mortuary of Alamosa is in care of the arrangements. To leave online condolences or tributes, please visit
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Service Details

  • Service

    Saturday, June 10th, 2023 | 10:00am
    Saturday, June 10th, 2023 10:00am
    Adams State University, Richardson Hall
    208 Edgemont Blvd.
    Alamosa, Colorado 81101
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email
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    In Loving Memory Of

    John McDaniel

    October 10, 1932 - May 2, 2023

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    Family and friends are coming together online to create a special keepsake. Every memory left on the online obituary will be automatically included in this book.


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Gini McCardle

Posted at 04:57pm
Brilliant man and fine professor.

As one of his many students I learned a great deal. He had a great, but dry sense of humor that caught many off guard. Made us laugh even more. If you took a few classes from him, you'd soon know that if he stopped, waited, put down his pen or a piece of chalk and stood a few seconds more, something genius or funny was about to be said.
It often comes to mind when reading or hearing a poor historical reference in the news, the time a student in our class (1986) on the Kennedy Administration, Civil Rights, etc., asked why we need to know all this stuff from "so long ago". We history/poli sci majors were dismayed, of course. Dr. McDaniel, the man who truly lived every bit of what he was teaching, asked the student what her major was, probably to give her some eloquent reason why this period was important. She responded that she was studying journalism. He stopped, waited, put the chalk down, waited, waited, waited, picked the chalk up and picked up where he left off. The stunned look on his face was priceless.

There are so many things Dr. McDaniel might have done, had he chosen a career in the political arena. I'm sure glad he chose to be a professor at Adams State.

wayne sheldrake

Posted at 10:07am
"I submit" final blue book:Dr. John McDaniel (1932-2023) was one of the “Fantastic Four” of my Adams State College (now “University”) professors, an ad hoc council of professors who commiserated (and sometimes conspired) to ensure my well-being and progress as a stray and undeclared undergraduate, 1980--1985. (The others were English Dept. Head Jodine Ryan, and history professors Dr. John Buchanan, Dr. Shirley Fredericks. Later honorary members Don Stegman and Koos Daley, both steered and supported me through finalizing an English/Education degree 1988-90.)

Following a strategy I can only describe as an appetite for the most interesting professors in my general interests--to say, classes that lent to my disposition and strengths in reading and writing--I first first stumbled into a McDaniel class titled American Political History, an epic two semester polemic which surveyed the foils, fables, follies and lasting contributions (both suspect and useful) of every president, Washington through Kennedy. Subsequently, I enrolled in McDaniel’s American Government, then Russian Literature (an exhaustive semester asking reading 300 to 400 pages a week!) and a “mini” cinema evening course. (I later reflected that to offer that film course in the middle of winter required him to stay late at the college looking forward to a dark 30 minute commute home from Alamosa to Monte Vista in the bitter sub-zero night and then a commute back to campus in the sub-zero morning to take up his full teaching schedule. And I venture to say he got paid not a shilling extra for it.)

McDaniel was one of the ‘blue book’ professors. There was no multiple choice or true/false in his tests. We were expected to write expository responses selected from a suite of questions. A study guide and sample questions were provided ahead of time, drawing on both assigned reading and lecture topics. It was more or less required to be a writer to excel in his class. And the grading was high-stakes, based on written midterms and a final. I remember spending five hours on one of his rigorous final tests, finishing in the dark of a December evening with a question that contemplated the hypothetical completion of a Kennedy administration cut short. His framing of test questions made being a student feel intellectually important. I still have those blue books marked with his exacerbated, sarcastic and restrained but glowing comments, and complaint after complaint about my poor handwriting. To which I retorted, “You’re the one giving written tests.”

His teaching style was Socratic and he had a particular technique of sustaining a classroom’s attention. He would pose a question to the class, half pause and then choose a student to answer it. We never knew when we would be picked and so had to be ready for every question, very often drawn from assigned readings. Even students who had read, would literally squirm under pressure attempting to at least confabulate plausible inevitably incomplete answers, to which McDaniel would then correct and/or finish the answer, sometimes including a calm but decisive reprimand. One knew an attempt was required. I once elicited a hard clucked laughing fit from him when he chose me for a question. Simply stumped, I paused and tilted my head just so as if thinking, then said, very confidently, “I don’t know.” He was undone. Apparently no one in all his years had ever dared to admit defeat. And I never dared that answer again.

In a wonderful window of time when college students were considered by their mentor/professors as scholastic colleagues, homes of professors were open to students of privileged performance at the conclusion of semesters for unofficial but convivial celebrations. Professors had presented scholastic challenge and selected few had excelled. In an ASC tradition, McDaniel and others rewarded the best of their students with invitations to personal gatherings of a filial bent. It was at one of these I became aware of Dr. McDaniel’s museum-like home and three story library collection. It was evident that above and beyond a teaching professorship he had a dutiful and life long commitment to a reading and scholarly life. Never was this commitment better expressed than in his one-on-one relationships with promising student/scholars. He had a special talent for recognizing and vetting those predisposed to a pre-law tract (where ASC had a 100% law school placement).

Alas, I was not one of them, but he tried. I was regularly towed into his office where he pontificated outlines of my future, urging me to declare as a history major and apply to TCU for a Masters, where his connections would weigh in my application. He was befuddled when I refused, on the grounds that I would go to Texas (so far away from skiing) only over my dead body. He tried to entice me with promises that bicycling (my summer passion) would be available there year round. No way, I said. Within a few years, I was eating crow. As it turned out I married a Texas girl and have visited Texas annually for the past 35 years. Adding to the irony, she was once a TCU student. My obstinance did not prevent me from visiting McDaniel’s office often for further discussion of the day's lecture or other historical and political topics.

The most beloved acolyte of his 40 year teaching career was a contemporary and friend of mine. As per the pre-law template, when Clyde Carstens was discovered by McDaniel, he was taken under wing, assigned a work-study position in the professor's office--meaning many hours of tutelage and academic grooming, and discoursing political debates (while Clyde also attended to other more mundane teaching tasks of typing, photocopying, grading of 100/200 level exams). Elected office as President of the Associated Students and Faculty served as Clyde’s governmental primer. The transformation into a mini-McDaniel--which included adoption of smart, Ivy League dress code, energetic walk and mannerisms and eruditely trimmed southern accent--was codified when, in a sudden epiphany, Clyde converted to Democrat and liberal. Their relationship, both personal and academic, became life long. The summer between Clyde’s Junior and Senior year, McDaniel lobbied me to secure for Clyde a part-time position at the Ken Cline owned Monte Vista Trout Farm. Clyde commuted from Alamosa with me. We worked hard physical labor side-by side for the morning. Then he borrowed my car to commute into Monte Vista for afternoons of McDaniel’s LSAT tutoring, returning to the farm at quitting time to pick me up. It was that summer that I discovered a profound life-marking circumstance Clyde and I shared: we both were essentially fatherless.

Memorable scenes at the trout farm included Clyde’s prided southern marksmanship in the shooting of a pond invading skunk. Unfortunately the shot was a direct hit on the tail end of the skunk and triggered its olfactory payload. Clyde’s reward for the kill was our foreman’s order that he dispose of the pungent carcass. On another occasion Clyde and I were assigned the collection of loose hay from a neighboring farm to be used to cover a freshly seeded yard. We loaded an enormous, tall stack in a sided flatbed. The pile looked a bit tippy to us both. As a joke, I said, “If you jump on top and spread eagle, it will stay in.” I hopped in the cab, and assumed he was hopping in at the same time, but Clyde did not appear in the passenger seat. In an instant I realized he had taken me seriously and vaulted to the top of the hay stack and clasped himself to the heap. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I had been kidding, so he took the short ride bouncing along face down in the hay. When we arrived at the yard he dismounted with such satisfaction of success that I didn’t stop him from repeating the procedure for a second load.

McDaniel’s tutoring paid off. Clyde returned to his home state Arkansas and graduated from law school. The two, functionally father and son, kept close touch including enjoying extensive travel together, and even after Clyde married and started a family. I don’t know if I ever respected McDaniel more than when, at the moment of Clyde’s untimely death, the professor we all remember for his starched dress, alma mater loyalty, academic discipline, ceremonial pomp and staunch dependability simply vacated the campus without notice and headed for Arkansas. His office and classrooms went dark. He remained absent and unreachable for more than a week--belying, for the only time in his life, his own attendance policy, and rallied to the aid of Clyde’s family. When he reappeared on campus, he offered no explanations or apology. No questions were asked. Everyone knew he had lost a son, and that loyalty and love superseded even the foundational precepts of his collegial duties, intellectual self-image and campus-bound life.

He became particularly pointed with me when I was tagged as responsible for an increase in student and faculty fees toward the financing to remodel the deteriorating yet historic Rex Gymnasium. The supposed approval for the increase was laid in my lap when, as Interim President of AS&F (over the summer session) ASC administration claimed that I had approved the increase. I explained to McDaniel, I had not approved anything. The administration (this would have been president Fulkerson, Dean Gomez and perhaps VP Glenn Burnham) called me to the President’s office and presented me with three potential funding scenarios and the accompanying fee increase. But since AS&F Senate did not meet in summer, I could only offer an opinion on what I speculated we might prefer. Any increase would require a vote, of course, I told them and left the meeting. I then forgot all about the meeting, and only learned, through McDaniel at the beginning of the fall semester, of the ruse. I was stung by his disapproval and mortified to have upset one of the “Fantastic Four.” I visited the President’s office to express my displeasure, but to no avail. The increase stayed. Rex was “saved,” and the gym was completely renovated into a state-of-the-art rec center that remains to this day one of the marquee attractions on the campus, enjoying enthusiastic use by both students and faculty.

In the years that I taught as adjunct at ASC, I often visited McDaniel’s office. When I earned my M.F.A., finally qualified for a full-time position in the English Department, but long after professors familiar with me had retired, and up against an English Faculty that preferred another candidate, there is no doubt in my mind that pressure from McDaniel opened the normally assigned position to interview, and I got the job.

I give McDaniel partial credit for the title of my first published book Instant Karma: The Heart and Soul of a Ski Bum. He was the first to call me a “ski bum.” My smiling retort was that I maintained a pretty good GPA for a ski bum, thanks, I would remind him, in part to the hard earned high marks given by him. I think he assumed everytime I missed a class--his or others (on a small campus it got around no matter whose class you missed)--assumed I was skiing instead. This was not true, not even in the height of winter. I had a strategy for missing just as many classes as any professor’s syllabus would allow, always stopping short of missing more than would affect my grades. At the time, most professors allowed 3 skips, without consequences. I spread “planned” absences around methodically throughout a semester, almost always taking all a professor allowed--and many weren’t during ski season at all, and even those that were almost never involved skiing. The majority of my absences were targeted around other academic demands--for instance, skipping one class to study or finish reading for an important test in another class.

McDaniel was the first of the “Fantastic Four” to challenge my tactics--no doubt alerted by the other three. His syllabus addressed absences as such: “It is assumed that one’s attendance is essential to succeed in the course,...” and etc., etc., etc. But, he allowed three misses before it affected the letter grade. After my first strategic absence in his class, I took my place at the side desk of the small classroom. Dr. McDaniel took the full roll of attendance, including me, then specifically addressed me. “Mr. Sheldrake,” he said. “Yes,” I said. “Do you have your syllabus at hand?” he said. “Yes,” I said. “Would you turn to the second page?” he said. “Yes,” I said, and did. He said, “Under ‘Attendance,’ would you please find the phrase that says It is assumed that one’s attendance is essential to succeed in the course.” “Yes, I see it,” I said. He said, “Mr. Sheldrake, please cross out the word ‘essential’ and replace it with the word ‘required’?” “Yes, sir.” I said, and did. I am completely confident that I had never called any man ‘Sir’ before that moment, and, though I did continue to spot planned absences in the classes of other professors, I never missed another McDaniel class. Nevertheless, Mac decided that, if and when I ever missed a class, any class, I was off skiing. Thus, the “ski bum” label stuck. And I, having no objection, actually relished the maverick reputation, and accepted the moniker as a sort of badge of honor. Still, when it came time to title the book, I realized that, though I was only a college ski bum (not a “real” ski bum), in the general reader’s eye (similar to McDaniel’s untrained eye) I was, relatively speaking, indeed, a ski bum. When the book was published (20 years after my matriculation), I had a strong desire that it be included in his formidable personal library, which consumed every square foot of his stately three story Monte Vista home, including hallways densely narrowed, floor to ceiling with shelving.

With the publication of the book, I arranged a celebratory audience at his home. He greeted me with a tea-time like setting and offered me either tea or a shot of bourbon. Although averse to the time of day for imbibing, I accepted the bourbon. I proffered a signed copy of the book. I read the personal inscription to him out loud: “Dear Dr. McDaniel, Thanks so much for all of the excellent advice. I am so sorry I did not follow any of it. Shine on, and God Bless” I also used the opportunity to apologize for quitting the full time teaching position after only one semester. It was only later, I explained that I realized he had used his political clout in the background to get me the job. With his ready, clucking chuckle he looked at me very sincerely and responded, “Well, Mr. Sheldrake, you did it YOUR WAY.”

The aptness of the comment was not lost on me. It had been 20 years since I had been his student, and he was remembering something that I had no idea he had known about me at the time I was a student. I realized, he knew that I had been a DJ for the college radio station and that I programmed a weekly show of jazz and jazz crooners, always including my favorite at the time, Frank Sinatra. Twenty years after the fact, I was reminded that this Dr John E. McDaniel was not just a teacher of students, he was a student of students. While the best of us were studying him and trying to figure out the Paper Chase of passing his rigorously structured courses and lectures, he was identifying who the best of us were and, unbeknownst and unannounced to us, monitoring our trajectory in the ASC experience. When he said, “you did it YOUR WAY” he invoked a code that he knew I would understand, and in a way that I would understand that he wanted me to understand was that he understood that Sinatra credo “my way” as applicable to my life-path. His was a fatherly intimacy that exceeded the teacher/student or mentor/mentee relationship.

Some years later, I discovered by accident that a Wayne Sheldrake/McDaniel Scholarship had been created. Many of the Scholarships he germinated were tributes to former respected colleagues and former close students. I was floored and honored to be among that regarded tribe. My wife and I matched his donation to activate the scholarship, now given annually for ½ the costs of attending ASC(U) for the Junior and/or Senior year. I am forever honored.

I still use two of his favorite expressions: “Ain’t got no dog in the fight.” And “Joe Six-pack.”

Travel mercies, my old friend and revered teacher.
So sorry we could not be in attendance, but so glad for the many years in your company.

Wayne K. Sheldrake

June 7, 2023

harold rominger

Posted at 03:56pm
The Romingers had the good fortune to live in John McDaniel's neighborhood in Monte Vista. In those days we loved to entertain; we inveigled John to fix the salad for a progressive dinner for neighbors. John made salad in a big plastic tub "for fifty of our closest friends" laughed John. The party was a success---but never to be repeated.
Our friend John's true love was Adams State University. His true family was the Adams faculty and students. Love, Margaret and Harold Rominger

Deanna (Dee Dee) Wall (Kincannon)

Posted at 11:52am
My family lived next door to Dr. John in Monte Vista. He and my grandmother shared a love of feeding the birds. When he first moved in, she introduced herself, then "encouraged" him to take care of the lawn. They bonded over the birds and a family friendship was born . My children loved to visit him, as he had a strawberry patch and would let them pick a few and eat them. We loved to eat out doors in the summer and we always invited him. One evening, he brought as his part of the meal, a bottle of pickles. We would always enjoy the Stampede parade on his corner of the street. He would put out a row of chairs and whoever got there first could sit there, late arrivals sat on the curb. We have been in Monte twice now, and noticed that the house and yard looked a bit untended. There was no answer on the phone or the doorbell. We will miss him.

Pamela Sturdevant

Posted at 09:20am
Q: What will you never forget about John?

A: Dr. McDaniels was always my favorite professor at Adams State. My Dad, Glenn Burnham lived around the block from Dr. McDaniels in Monte Vista. One day my friend Leslie and I were lucky enough to be invited in his house for a tour. It was a wonderful memory that I think of often. Wonderful man.

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