Retirees Association

Jacob Henry Dorn, 77, Professor of History

Jacob Henry “Jake” Dorn of Dayton passed away peacefully on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2017, just shy of his 78th birthday.

The oldest of Francis Jacob Henry and Mary Elizabeth Dorn's four children, he grew up in Rosemont, Ill., spent at least one memorable summer working at Joe and Mike's fruit and vegetable stand, and graduated from Leyden Township High School in 1956. He earned a BA from Wheaton College in 1960 and then a Ph.D. in history from the University of Oregon in 1965.

While at Wheaton, he met Carole Ruth Johnson and later proposed from a pay phone in Eugene, Ore. They married August 15, 1964, and just recently celebrated their 53rd anniversary. As newlyweds, Jake and Carole moved to Dayton where Jake began teaching American history at Wright State University. He remained on the faculty there for 47 years until his retirement as a professor emeritus in 2012.

During those years, he served as the founding director of the University's Honors Program, as vice president of University Faculty, and as a member of the President's Council, Academic Council, Graduate Council, and numerous other committees.

Committed to the idea that academics owe service to the larger profession and urban community, Jake held several offices in the Mid-East Honors Association from 1973-1987, was involved with the Danforth Foundation Associate Program from 1969-1980, sat on the Advisory Board of H-Ohio Network from 1998-2017, and participated on the Board of Managers and in the Executive Committee of the American Baptist Historical Society for a decade. He also gave significant time to the Ohio Board for United Ministries in Higher Education as a member of four committees, a board member, vice-president, and president, and was a truly steadfast participant in the Dayton Council on World Affairs for four decades. For the duration of his teaching career, he was an active presenter, chair, and member of many committees for the Ohio Academy of History as well.

Jake's skill in the classroom earned him four outstanding teaching awards and meaningful relationships with students stretching well beyond commencement, while his steadfast devotion to service earned him three distinguished service commendations. Somehow finding time to conduct research and write in addition, he published a seminal study of Washington Gladden, a Congregational minister and leader of the Social Gospel, edited a volume on socialism and Christianity in early 20th-century America and a bibliography of sources on Dayton, penned more than 30 journal articles and book chapters, and wrote an astonishing 85 reviews of scholarly books, the last two of which will be published posthumously.

Jake's interests were expansive. He loved to travel, always keeping meticulous diaries and documenting trips with carefully captioned photographs. He looked forward to meetings of his men's book club and lunch discussion group, frequently went to the movies, regularly took walks around the neighborhood, and regaled all who would listen with stories. He prided himself on his ability to make popcorn, always making sure to add a liberal dose of butter. And he delighted in spending time with friends and family.

Jake is survived by his loving wife Carole; his son Jon and daughter-in-law Heather; daughter Betsy and son-in-law Keith; grandchildren Hadley, Abby, Oliver, and Isaac; brother Jared, sister-in-law Maryann, and niece Mary Frances; sister Marybeth and niece Christine; sister June and nephew Jacob.

They will gather for a celebration of Jake's life on Saturday, Sept. 9, at 11 a.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 125 N. Wilkinson St., Dayton, 45402. A reception will follow the memorial service.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Jacob H. Dorn Scholarship Fund [checks to be made out to the Wright State University Foundation with the scholarship noted and mailed to the Foundation c/o Sara Woodhull, 3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy. Dayton, OH, 45435-0001].

If you would like to share memories of Jake or suggest a toast, please send those to the family at