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Wednesday, November 4, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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C. Dorr Demaray, 91; College Expanded During His Presidency

C. Dorr Demaray, educator, administrator, scholar, builder, collector, father, a man of "indefatigable spirit" and "enormous curiosity," has died at 91.

Dr. Demaray was president of Seattle Pacific College from 1959 until his retirement in 1968, a period of turbulence in American society, and particularly on American campuses.

The turbulence failed to rock Seattle Pacific in the way it did other institutions, in part because of the nature of the school - small and religiously affiliated - but also because Dr. Demaray welcomed challenges to the status quo.

"He was always a bigger thinker," said his son, Wendell Demaray. "Any tradition could be questioned. He questioned anything and everything. He wanted to know, `What is right?' "

Joseph Davis, a former professor at Seattle Pacific, said "both students and faculty had a feeling that there was a degree of freedom in their relationships."

During Dr. Demaray's tenure at Seattle Pacific, enrollment increased by more than half, full-time faculty doubled and 15 buildings were either constructed or remodeled.

"Dorr Demaray essentially built the campus," said Curtis Martin, Seattle Pacific's current president. "He had a vision; he saw what Seattle Pacific could become. We've spent the last 20 years filling the buildings his vision created."

Dr. Demaray was born in 1901 in Vermontville, Mich. His mother died when he was 3 and he was raised by an uncle. Much of his adult life was driven by a fierce determination to contradict the uncle's assessment that Dr. Demaray would never amount to much, Wendell Demaray said.

Dr. Demaray attended colleges in Illinois and Michigan. He met and married Grace Vore while in college in Illinois. They were married for 57 years until her death in 1983.

Dr. Demaray received a doctorate in literature from Seattle Pacific. He was also an ordained Methodist minister. He was president of Los Angeles Pacific College before arriving in Seattle in 1948, when he became pastor of the First Free Methodist Church. He remained pastor until taking over the presidency of Seattle Pacific.

David McKenna succeeded Dr. Demaray as college president. The college, as it was delivered to him, reflected Dr. Demaray's gifts, he said.

"It was a tough time. We had entered into an era in which enrollments were squeezed, resources were scarce, government programs were cut away. The components of serious trouble were there. Dr. Demaray, however, left Seattle Pacific the model of such a gentle, caring spirit. He represented the sense of community that pulled us through that," McKenna said.

Dr. Demaray's education was reflected in his manner. He was, by all accounts, the epitome of the gracious, learned, literary man - full of wit. He could as easily discuss Mrs. Malaprop as the architectural plans for a new house.

Dr. Demaray was active in civic organizations and the religious community. He helped organize the Christian Witness Pavilion and Children's Center at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair. He was honored by the Seattle City Council upon his retirement.

His religious beliefs were strong. After retiring from the college, he led 18 tours to Israel; pastored a church in Japan; helped start a Christian high school in Hong Kong; and raised money for a Taiwanese seminary. He was an active board member at the Crista Ministries in north Seattle until his death.

To his three children, Dr. Demaray was "a master figure. I always thought he knew everything. His depth of knowledge was remarkable," said his son, Wendell.

That knowledge was driven by a curiosity that was never quieted and by an unwillingness to accept things without question.

A story related by the family to David McKenna illustrates Dr. Demaray's refusal unto death to be timid.

He had been in a coma for several hours last Friday, the day of his death. The coma was so deep and his signs of life so faint, the family assumed he was about to die, if he hadn't already.

Suddenly, he awoke from the coma.

Sally Ann Baird Champion, his wife of three years, asked if he had gone to heaven.

Enraged, Dr. Demaray replied: "Heaven? No! Do I look like it?"

"If Dorr Demary was going to go to heaven," McKenna said, "he was going to go on his own time."

Dr. Demaray is survived by his wife, of Seattle; sons Wendell of Salt Lake City and Donald of Wilmore, Ky.; daughter Margaret Brown of Kent; 10 grandchildren; and 15 great grandchildren.

Services were scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today at the First Free Methodist Church, 3200 Third Ave. W. The family request memorials be directed to the C. Dorr Demaray Scholarship Endowment at Seattle Pacific.

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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