Allen Yarnell, a historian, scholar and administrator who was a key adviser to four presidents at Montana State University, died Thursday at home following an extended illness. He was 71.
MSU will hold a celebration of his life at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 20 in the Hager Auditorium of the Museum of the Rockies. Students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends and family, are welcome. Funeral services will be at the Temple Beth Shalom, 2010 W. Koch St., at 1 p.m. Monday, Nov. 18, with burial to follow immediately in the Jewish section of Bozeman's Sunset Hills Cemetery.
"The Montana State University community has lost a wise and dedicated friend today," said MSU President Waded Cruzado. "Allen was a skilled and well-respected administrator who served in a variety of senior leadership positions during a critical time in the university's history. He could always be counted upon for his keen insight and his sincere interest in students. Allen Yarnell contributed greatly to making Montana State University the institution it is today with his loyal and inspired work."
A historian by training and passion, Yarnell came to MSU in 1994 to serve as the vice provost for student affairs. He had previously worked at the University of California-Los Angeles as an assistant vice chancellor of student relations and of student and campus life for 14 years.
He became a vice president at MSU in 1998, working as a senior adviser to MSU Presidents Waded Cruzado, Geoff Gamble, interim President Terry Roark and the late Michael P. Malone.
His work at MSU always had an emphasis on students. He held the titles of Vice President for Student Affairs and Vice President for Student Success. During his time at MSU he oversaw MSU recruitment and enrollment, MSU athletics, MSU Career Services, veteran's affairs, financial aid and MSU crisis management.
MSU experienced significant impact in several areas while under his responsibility. For example, MSU enrollment soared from 10,962 students in 1994 to 15,294 students in 2013.
Ronda Russell, MSU's director of admissions who worked with Yarnell to grow MSU's enrollment calls Yarnell "one of the most intelligent, kind and compassionate people I have ever met."
"He left his mark on many at MSU and we can honor him by remembering and living the many lessons he taught so many of us," Russell said.
Similarly, as adviser for MSU Athletics, Yarnell hired MSU Athletic Director Peter Fields, and during his tenure MSU football has climbed from the Big Sky Conference basement to a perennial contender for best team in the league.
"Allen Yarnell was an enthusiastic and knowledgeable supporter of our athletic programs who was well-loved in Bobcat Athletics," said Peter Fields, MSU's director of athletics. "He was such a unique person whose view on sports and life were distinctive. Allen was a sounding board for so many people on campus because of his sense of perspective, calm demeanor and subtle sense of humor, and he will be greatly missed.”
In May 2012, Yarnell was appointed as executive officer in charge of student financial literacy training, leading MSU efforts to beef up financial literacy training for students and parents.
Robert Rydell, MSU's Michael P. Malone professor of history said that Yarnell was known as a masterful teacher. Few people realized that during his entire tenure at MSU, Yarnell remained an adjunct professor of history at MSU, teaching a seminar called "The Truman McCarthy Era."
"I first became acquainted with Allen when I was a graduate student at UCLA in 1974 and he was regarded as one of the most exceptional professors on campus," Rydell said. He said that Yarnell was a first-rate historian who was an expert on 21st century political history, specializing in the Truman and Eisenhower presidencies.
"I would call him a master teacher who chose to commit himself to making history at Montana State University," Rydell said.
Yarnell grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., and received his bachelor's degree in political science from the Harpur College at the State University of New York (SUNY), his master's degree in U.S. history from SUNY at Binghamton and his doctorate in history from the University of Washington in 1969. He taught history at Washington State University and UCLA prior to coming to MSU.
Yarnell was a specialist on the era of McCarthyism in U.S. history. He wrote the book "Democrats and Progressives: The 1948 Election as a Test of Postwar Liberalism," published by the University of California Press. He was also the editor of two other history books: "The American People: Creating a Nation and A Society," published in 1986 byHarper & Row; and "The Postwar Epoch: Perspectives of American History Since 1945," published by Harper & Row in 1972.
Yarnell is survived by his wife of 34 years, Denise Andres, a successful realtor in Gallatin Valley, and two children, Lisa and Mark.
Memorials can be made to the Allen L. Yarnell Memorial Scholarship Fund at the Montana State University Alumni Foundation.
Tracy Ellig, (406) 994-5607, firstname.lastname@example.org