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Remembering former Rye resident Donald Philips Dennis: ‘Never lost his idealism’

Posted By Leah Rae On January 9, 2013 @ 6:37 pm In Rye,Uncategorized | Comments Disabled

Donald Philips Dennis will be remembered for generating foreign policy discussions far and wide, from the Rye library up to the global scale. He died last month at 96. He lived in Rye from 1947 to 2004 and in White Plains until August of last year. Following is an obituary provided by his family.


[1]Donald Philips Dennis, retired Vice President of the Foreign Policy Association, died on Dec. 20 in New York City. He served the Association for 33 years from 1953 to 1986 and wrote a history of the organization after retirement. He was 96.

Born in Kenton, Ohio, on Nov. 3, 1916, Mr. Dennis graduated from Wittenberg University and went on to earn a master’s degree in journalism at the University of Minnesota just as World War II began.  He served in the South Pacific as a naval communications officer and returned from the war dedicated to the cause of international understanding and cooperation.

In the period 1946-1952, he was executive director of Federal Union, Inc. and the Atlantic Union Committee which advocated a federal union of the democracies and was influential in the creation of NATO. In 1959 he was a member of the United States delegation to the Atlantic Congress in London, and in 1979 was a secretary of a delegation to the Chinese Peoples’ Institute of Foreign Affairs in Beijing.


In the 1960s Mr. Dennis served as board secretary and director of the Association to Unite the Democracies and he served on the executive committee and as its president, 2002-2006. From 1961 until recently, he served on the executive committee of the Association of International Relations Clubs for college students and on the international relations committee of the national Council for Christian Social Action.

Mr. Dennis was dedicated to making democracy work and never lost his idealism. He believed citizens should inform themselves, articulate their opinions and express them to policymakers in the government. He was president of the Rye (New York) Forum and for ten years in the 1970s led a discussion series, “Great Decisions,” on foreign policy at the Rye Library.

An elder in the Rye Presbyterian Church, he moderated a standing-room-only series there on the Vietnam War and also organized many “Five O’Clock Forums.” In Westchester County, he became vice chair of the Nuclear Freeze Movement in the 1980s, secretary of Habitat for Humanity and in the 1990’s was a member of the Rye City Democratic Committee. A frequent writer of “letters to the editor,” he regularly informed policymakers in Washington, Albany and Rye of his views.

In 1998, he received the Human Rights Award presented by the City of Rye Commission on Human Rights. In 2000 he received the Westchester County 2000 Senior Citizen Hall of Fame Special Recognition Award.

Mr. Dennis was preceded in death by his wives Helen Hogue Dennis and Joan Drew Ritchings Dennis.

He is survived by his wife, Ann S. Kliman of White Plains, NY and his four daughters, Donna F. Dennis of New York City, Nancy Petiya of Denver, Katherine Nickels of Camden, Maine and Anne Toccafondi of Florence, Italy.

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