Donald Joseph Dessart

  • "I was Don's last department head, and I am very sad to hear..."
    - Barbara Thayer-Bacon
  • "I have fond memories of Dr. Dessart from my college days at..."
    - Susan Bolt
  • "Rest in peace"
    - Larry DeGroot
  • "No words will ever be able to express the sorrow I feel at..."
    - Mary Newsome
  • "God bless you all"
    - Buddy Bebeau

Dessart, Donald Joseph

College Professor and Korean War Veteran

Dr. Donald Joseph Dessart (Don/Dad/Grampa Don/Papa), 86, passed away peacefully on April 3, at Piedmont Health Care Center in Piedmont, Ala. He was born on April 2, 1928, in Green Bay, Wis., the son of the late Eli Joseph Dessart and Mary Octavia (Warrichaiet) Dessart. In addition to his parents, Don is predeceased by his beloved wife of 60 years, Gloria Jean (Clemons) Dessart and a sister, Arlene DuFresne. He is survived by a sister, Nancy (Jerry) Boettcher; children, Mary Newsome, Tom Dessart, Jean (Rob) Rush, Brian (Jamie) Dessart, and Ruth (Milton) Mason; grandchildren, Ryan (Cassie) Rush, Beth Rush, Joseph (Tiffany) Rush, Aimee Mason, Katie Dessart, Wesley Mason and Abby Dessart; a great-grandson, Reef Rush; and many cousins, nephews and nieces. His guiding wisdom, wonderful sense of humor and loving nature will be greatly missed.

Don graduated from West High School in Green Bay in 1946, where he was senior class president. He attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison on a Naval ROTC scholarship graduating Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in Mathematics Education and was commissioned as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy on June 16, 1950. He married Gloria on June 17, 1950, in Green Bay. He served aboard the USS Los Angeles, a heavy cruiser, as a gunnery officer making two combat deployments to Korea during the Korean War. Don left active duty in 1953, but served in the Naval Reserve until 1960, attaining the rank of Lieutenant Commander. He was very proud of his service and was always interested in talking about the Navy.

Following the war Don taught high school math for two years in Escanaba, Mich. and Monona, Wis. After receipt of his Master's Degree in Mathematics Education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he took a teaching position at State University of New York-Oneonta. He completed his PhD in Mathematics Education in 1961, at the University of Maryland in College Park. In 1962, Don accepted a position at the University of Tennessee as a professor in the departments of Mathematics and Math Education so he and Gloria moved the family to Knoxville. Don taught at UT for over 40 years retiring as a Professor Emeritus. He had a passion for teaching bringing a special gift for making complex mathematical principles more understandable to students who were intimidated by or less inclined toward mathematics.

Dr. Dessart accumulated numerous professional achievements. He published over 60 articles in various professional journals. He served on several committees of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and as Vice-President and President of the Tennessee Mathematics Teachers Assoc. Don also served as the Director of the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics and chaired the editorial board of the Journal for Research in Mathematics. His awards and honors include Who's Who in America, the John B. Tunstall Award as Outstanding Faculty Member (3 times), the Excellence in Humanity and Teaching Award and the Helen B. Watson Faculty/Student Outstanding Dissertation Award. Don's two crowning professional achievements were his election as the UT Macebearer for 1998-99, the highest honor for a faculty member, and the 2002 NCTM Lifetime Achievement Award for Distinguished Service to Mathematics Education.

Don, a life-long Episcopalian, was a faithful member of the following churches: the Church of the Ascension, Tyson House and Good Samaritan. He was active in each church serving in many capacities.

Don was a sports enthusiast and an avid fan of his hometown Green Bay Packers. He loved to read, especially history. He also had a passion for genealogy compiling an impressive collection of family history. Don and Gloria travelled to his ancestral Belgium where he made contact with distant cousins.

A memorial service will be held at the Church of the Good Samaritan, 425 N. Cedar Bluff Rd, Knoxville, TN 37923 at a later date. For online information and condolences go to In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Church of the Good Samaritan or Piedmont Health Care Center, 30 Roundtree Dr., Piedmont, AL 36272 (enter "Indigent Fund" in memo line).

Published in Green Bay Press-Gazette on Apr. 8, 2014
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