Daniel P. Younger, 62, a former member of the Kenyon administration who ran the now-closed Olin Art Gallery and taught art history, died Monday, Jan. 18, at Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. He had been treated for pancreatic cancer for several months.
“Dan was one of the finest and dearest people I have ever encountered in my life,” said Simone Dubrovic, associate professor of Italian. “His gentleness, generosity and sweetness were beyond what words can express, and they will accompany me forever. I want to remember here his passion and deep understanding of art as a living thing, as something that concerns us all. Dan was an artist himself: his photographs show the pureness of his gaze, able to catch the profound poetry concealed behind the apparent triteness of our ordinary life.”
Dan, who was born in Columbus to the late Sally Farrell Younger and Robert Younger, grew up in Montclair, New Jersey. He graduated in 1976 from the College of Wooster and went on to earn a master’s of fine arts in museum studies and photographic history in 1980 from the State University of New York’s Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester.
An accomplished photographer, with works in numerous private and public collections, and a published scholar, Dan served as director of the gallery in Olin Library from 1997 through the gallery’s closing in 2011. Among the memorable shows he curated at the gallery were “Tourism: Nineteenth-Century View Photography, 1855-1890,” “The Mayos: African-American Artists of the Heartland” and “Once Upon a Time: Victorian Illustrated Children’s Books.”
Dan taught in the departments of art and art history as an adjunct and visiting assistant professor. His course offerings focused on his special interests and expertise in museums and the history of photography. He also was assistant director of the Kenyon in Rome and Florence Program in 2006, interim curator of the College’s image resources in 2002, and an affiliated scholar in art history.
“Dan had the most elegant sense of design in anything he did — from his photographs to the exhibitions he curated,” Professor of Art History Eugene J. Dwyer said. “He was meticulous in the presentation of his own art and in the works of other artists. The exhibited work was perfectly mounted, perfectly aligned. He wrote, pasted up and corrected beautifully printed texts accompanying his gallery exhibitions, consciously creating an archive of the exhibitions. Under Dan’s supervision, the Olin Art Gallery became a work of art in itself.
“Dan showed generosity to the artists he represented, through his attention to details,” Dwyer added. “He took their work as seriously as he did his own.”
Dan’s many interests included antique children’s books, of which he was both a collector and a seller. He was an avid bicyclist and an enthusiastic amateur astronomer. His most recent photographic project was a series of images depicting Knox County farm life.
Prior to his affiliation with Kenyon, Dan served for a year as director of the museum of the Knox County Historical Society in nearby Mount Vernon. He was the editor from 1987 to 1993 of VIEWS: The Journal of Photography in New England, published by Boston University’s Photographic Resource Center, where he also served as director of publications. He previously worked as a librarian at Boston University’s Aaron Siskind Library and as an assistant cataloguer at the International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House in Rochester.
“I had known Dan, and many of his closest friends, since we first stepped on campus at the College of Wooster in the fall of 1971,” said Jeff Swarts, recently retired from Kenyon’s Library and Information Services staff. “I remember watching him run cross-country. He was an athlete, scholar and friend who embodied the ideals of liberal education. Dan was a gentleman in the best sense of the word, not because he wasn’t strong — he was — but because he practiced finding the good in others. Dan went out of his way to help and support others. His love of (his wife) Melissa was unqualified and complete.
“What I will miss most about Dan is his wry sense of humor,” Swarts continued. “He found joy in the little things in life. You knew you had missed a good one when he stopped, with a grin, and watched to see if you’d gotten ‘it.’ He was one of the most constant and best friends of my life, one of the most perceptive and rarest I have known.”
Dan is survived by his wife, Melissa Dabakis, a longtime professor of art history at Kenyon, and a brother, David Younger. Interment will be in Hamden, Connecticut.
Memorial contributions may be made to the National Pancreatic Cancer Foundation in Longmont, Colorado, or to the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund at the Ohio State’s Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital (fund number 301352) in Columbus.
—By Thomas Stamp ’73