Eastern Michigan University remembers John Dingell

John Dingell speaking at the podium at Eastern Michigan University.
John Dingell with Desmond Miller
See a gallery of images of John Dingell at Eastern.

YPSILANTI --  John D. Dingell, the longest-serving congressman in United States history, was a friend and supporter of Eastern Michigan University and its students and faculty. Dingell died at the age of 92 last Thursday, (Feb. 7). His strong connections with Eastern spanned a good deal of his life -- from the time he took office in 1955 until he retired in 2015. And, even after retiring from office, he continued his involvement and support of the University and its students.

Dingell was a regular visitor to Eastern’s campus. He received the University’s MLK Humanitarian Award in 2011. He also regularly met with faculty and students in his office in Washington, D.C., as they traveled for class assignments about government and politics.

John Dingell touched many people at Eastern Michigan. Below are comments and memories from some of them.

President James Smith

John Dingell was a great American. Very few have had the impact that he had on our nation, on Michigan, and on the Eastern Michigan University community. He was not only a friend to Eastern, but also a forceful advocate for the University and for our students. In 2011, then Congressman Dingell was awarded the Eastern Michigan University MLK Humanitarian Award. He always took the time to get to know and mentor our students, and over the years many worked on his staff. John Dingell will be greatly missed. We join all in our community in sending our deepest sympathies to Congresswoman Debbie Dingell and their family.

Political Science Professor Jeffrey Bernstein

I had the honor taking two classes to meet with Congressman Dingell, the first in his Ypsilanti office in 2013, the second in Washington in 2014.  Congressman Dingell was generous with his time, interested in talking to the students and learning about them, and always, always, always an endless repository of stories about government and the people who have served in it.  His stories about the presidents with whom he had served (he served in Congress with one-fourth of American presidents!) were fascinating and engaging.  While meeting him in Washington, the Congressman let me hold the gavel he had used when he presided over the House of Representatives when it passed Medicare - that was such a thrill.

I deeply admire Congressman Dingell's years of service, his ability to work together with colleagues across the aisle, and his razor-sharp intellect and wit.  I am blessed to have known him and to have been able to share this national treasure with so many of our students.

Former Student Body President (2013-2015) Desmond Miller

“I was in Washington, D.C., for a meeting with him for a class with Dr. Bernstein when Mr. Dingell said something that I still remember today. He said, ‘It’s easy to ask elected officials what they are willing to fight for. Instead, ask them what they’re willing to compromise on. That’s the tough question people are often too afraid to answer.’”

Leigh Greden, chief of staff to EMU President James Smith; former chief of staff to Congressman John Dingell and transition director to Congresswoman Debbie Dingell

"John Dingell set the gold standard for serving constituents. He always sought to do more for the people he served, even when he was already far exceeding their expectations. That was especially true for Eastern Michigan University. He was responsible for securing federal support for many projects important to the University and the region. His broader legacy includes leading the passage of the Civil Rights Act and Medicare. On a personal note, he was kind, humble, funny and smart. His impact on our campus, statewide, and nationally is immeasurable."

Andy LeBarre, executive vice president and director of government relations, Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber; Chair, Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners; Field Representative for Congressman Dingell 2005-2008; Eastern Michigan University alumni

“Mr. Dingell understood the value of Eastern Michigan University as an institution that helps its students achieve their portion of the American Dream. He loved EMU, its staff, its students, and all it stands for, and he was proud to represent it.”


February 11, 2019

Written by:
Walter Kraft

Geoff Larcom