Dr. David Van Buren Obituary

Retired professor had lasting influence


Photo courtesy of Dr. Kory Wein

Professor Emeritus David Van Buren passed away on August 19, 2022.His illustrious career and involvement with the UW-Platteville began in the Criminal Justice Department. However, his
influence and passion
were widespread throughout all disciplines, especially the liberal arts. Even after  his retirement, Dr. Van Buren continued to have deep connections and an everlasting impact on the workings of the university.

His colleague and friend, Dr. Shane Drefcinski, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Humanities Department Chair, noted, “He was, in some ways, the ideal of a liberal arts graduate” as proven by Dr. Van Buren’s impressive background and education.

Dr. Van Buren graduated with a bachelor of arts degree magna cum laude from St. Bonaventure University in New York in 1969 where he majored in English Literature and Psychology and minored in Philosophy and classical languages.

“His dedication to the liberal arts was unmatched,” adds Dr. Drefcinski. Indeed, Dr. Van Buren influenced many liberal arts programs and committees in his time here at UW-Platteville.

Dr. Kory Wein, Professor of English and former Interim Dean of LAE, another friend and colleague of Dr. Van Buren, worked with him on many of programs and committees, such as the University Undergraduate Curriculum Committee and the working group of the University Rank, Salary and Tenure Policy Commission.

Dr. Van Buren had also been the creator of the Confucius Institute that organized trips to China. The UW-Platteville was the first UW school to have this kind of institute.

“Its success helped develop Chinese language courses for undergraduate students, developed language and cross-cultural communications classes with local businesses, and facilitated cultural exchanges and celebrations,” Dr. Wein explained.

He continued, “As an administrator, he championed faculty governance and faculty rights as well as the importance of a liberal arts education. For his unwavering support of the liberal arts, Dave was inducted in 2015 into UW-Platteville’s Arts and Letters Hall of Fame.”

Dr. Drefcinski added that he would remember to address past issues so that no issues would go unattended. He was motivated to transform the campus into its best version.

Dr. Van Buren was not only dedicated to the students, but also to his colleagues. He showed no shortage of care and kindness to those who worked beside him.

“In many ways,” Dr. Wein shared, “he became an unofficial mentor to me and to many other younger faculty members. I will always be grateful for his support, encouragement and sage advice over the years.”

Despite the great influence and guidance of Dr. Van Buren, Dr. Drefcinski said he was oftentimes underappreciated. He was a steady presence and would “use his wit at appropriate times. For example, if a conversation had turned heated,” Drefcinski said.

The loss of Dr. Van Buren had a detrimental impact on the faculty and staff that knew him, as Dr. Drefcinski noted they had all hoped he would overcome his illness, mentioning that Dr. Van Buren had even been making plans to go to Egypt.

Dr. Wein says, “Dave’s love of other cultures extended beyond his professional career and into his personal interests and passions. He loved learning about the history and culture of Indigenous peoples, notably the Hopi, and spent time each year in the American Southwest visiting reservations, collecting artwork and participating in cultural ceremonies and events. He was a life-long learner, to be sure. A voracious reader and a seasoned traveler, he was always interested in learning something new and exploring some place he’d never been—and he had visited many, many places throughout the world. Always a teacher, he loved to share his experiences and knowledge with anyone.”

The picture that is painted by those who knew Dr. Van Buren is of a man who was so completely dedicated and passionate about the culture and arts that make up human society and life