By Bruce Parmenter
I call Eleanor Daniel “The Queen of the Deans” because, to my knowledge, she is the only woman, aside from Dr. Dinelle Frankland and Karen Diefendorf, to serve as academic dean in seminaries of the more “traditional” side of the Stone-Campbell fellowship. Daniel has been dean at not one, but three seminaries. She is also a missionary, and a missionary to missionaries, a scholar par excellence (summa cum laude graduate of Lincoln Christian College, master’s degree and PhD from the University of Illinois), and an extraordinary teacher and preacher.
Tucked in among the plethora of her gifts, as a kind of lubricant for all the rest, is the gift of friendship. Her roster of lifelong friends exceeds the impressive list of books, journal articles, and essays she has written.
Her first published article appeared in The Lookout, “We Recommend Week-Day Church School.” This piece was based on the weekday church school Daniel established at Tuscola, Illinois, where she served, first as youth minister and later as director of Christian education. Years later Daniel would have a 15-year tenure as a columnist for The Lookout.
Daniels is author of the book Principles of Christian Teaching, which has been translated into Russian, Romanian, and Polish. She revised and updated the classic book by Guy Leavitt, Teach With Success, since translated into Polish. A 1981 book in the College Press series, What the Bible Says About . . . , is an encyclopedic treatment of the topic of sexual identity. Scholars researching this subject should have her careful and thorough study ready at hand. The following line from the book sets forth both her point of view and her literary style: “Preach God’s mercy, repentance as needed, and forgiveness as available.”
Through each deanship, she has continued classroom teaching and guidance of student dissertations. She has served on teams examining other seminaries for accreditation.
She has also been director of Christian education in churches full-time or adjunct to her seminary administration duties.
Daniels was founder and director of the preschool at Lincoln (Illinois) Christian Church. That thriving program is still flourishing today.
Eleanor Daniel, the person, is gregarious, laughs often, and overflows with a zest for life in spite of loss of vision, multiple fractures, and now undergoing dialysis three times a week. She remains courageously active in “the good fight of faith.”
Children and youth have always loved her, and that may be the highest honor of all. Early on, she bonded easily and closely to the young people in the Tuscola church. Notable among those she influenced into ministry is Jim Allison, who taught vocal music at Lincoln Christian University for more than 40 years.
I was quite surprised to learn from Daniels that she passed through the first grade without learning to read! It seems her first-grade teacher did not know how to teach reading, but when her resourceful mother discovered the deficiency, she taught her child to read. Daniels has been reading ever since, and still reads 100 books a year, with the use of the Talking Books resource. She has a particular interest in biographies of U.S. presidents.
The “Queen of the Deans” has preached and taught on three continents, traveling in 14 different countries. She has taken at least 35 mission trips outside the United States!
I well remember the series of sermons/lectures in the chapel at Lincoln Christian College in the early 1970s on “The Role of Women in the Church.” Daniels gave one of the sermons, and Ron Heine and I also spoke. I say “also” because the male speakers were mere foot soldiers in the sermon parade.
She was first invited to India by Abraham Thomas, one of her former students at Cincinnati Christian Seminary. On her 12th trip there, in 2013, she became desperately ill and passed through a near-death experience. Her survival seems miraculous. She returned in a wheelchair to her home in Savoy, Illinois, where her sisters, Jean and Kay, keep watch over her.
She was a bright youngster with roots in the emphatically rural Pike County, Illinois, where she was spiritually nourished under the excellent preaching of the pastor of the whole county, Joe Maynard. From that beginning she became a world traveler, distinguished educator, and noted preacher.
Now 75, her life is a powerful testimony of Ephesians 3:20, 21: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
Bruce Parmenter is a retired minister, pastoral counselor, professor of pastoral counseling, and author. E-mail Daniels at email@example.com.