Our Stories: Alix and Fred Denny
We have among us a talented, articulate, and musical couple. They have been married for almost 60 years.The husband traveled for the State Department to Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Yemen. He taught at the University of Colorado for 27 years and was at times chair of the Religious Studies Department and is now Professor Emeritus. Both were in BVCAN for 10 years. Both have sung in various choral groups and have been members of our Fellowship choir for many years.
Fred and Alix Denny are the members I am talking about. I have many fond memories of singing in the choir with them and of hearing Fred’s frequent and very funny puns, as well as hearing him speak from our dais and also talking with both of them after our Sunday services.
Fred was born in Burlington VT in 1939. His father, he says, was “a warm, open, and very social man who started the Rotary Club and at different times was chairman of the school board and mayor of Bristol VT. His mother was chair of the Democratic Party in Vermont.
Alix was born in Elizabeth, NJ also in 1939. Alix’s father was a “white” (anti-Communist) Russian who fled Russia when Stalin came to power, then came to this country and studied at Cornell and MIT and became an aeronautical engineer and a fighter pilot in WWII and Korea. “Mother described him as looking like a Greek god, but I never knew him that way.” Alix’s mother was a “wonderful, strong, involved person” and a graduate of Vassar College.
It would be many years before they would become Unitarian Universalists. Fred grew up Northern Baptist. He then became a Congregationalist in his teens and was president of area youth groups. He and Alix belonged to various liberal churches until 12 years ago, when a fellow Religious Studies professor – our beloved Ira Chernus – invited him to speak before our congregation, at which time he was introduced to BVUUF. Years earlier he had met and talked with the famous Unitarian Dana McLean Greeley, who was the uncle of a student of Fred’s at Colby Junior College in New London, NH.
Alix grew up Presbyterian, but with Fred attended various liberal churches before joining BVUUF. They were in First Congregational Church in Boulder for 30 years. Alix feels comfortable with UUism “because it embraces all faiths and because we love Rev. Lydia’s preaching.”
Fred got his BA in Virginia at the College of William and Mary. Thinking of becoming a minister, he attended Andover-Newton Theological School in Massachusetts. When Fred graduated, the president of Andover-Newton recommended him for a position at Colby Junior College, teaching world religions. While teaching at Colby Junior College he spent a summer at Harvard University studying Islam – and from then on the study of Islam was his primary interest. After teaching at Colby Junior College, he got an MA and a PhD in Comparative Religion at the University of Chicago. Following a year when the two of them lived in Cairo, Egypt, he taught at Yale for a year and was encouraged by the chair of the department at Yale to go to the University of Virginia and help develop their Religious Studies Department. He taught there for six years, then came to Boulder in 1978 to teach at the University of Colorado for another 27 years, until he retired in 2005. He has edited over 45 books in a series called Studies in Comparative Religion and written An Introduction to Islam which has been popular in colleges and universities around the country.
Fred and Alix, together with their children Joshua and Sydney, lived in Surabaya, Indonesia, where Fred was studying Koran recitation schools in 1984-1985.
Alix went to the College of William and Mary for her BA in English and then to Simmons College in Boston for a degree which started her off in a career in library science which would last for over 40 years, 31 of them at Longmont Public Library. Along the way she was a branch librarian in Newton, MA, in the state library in New Hampshire, and in the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago library.
What brings them joy? For Fred: “everyday living, my wife, our children, our extended family (son in Grand Jct, daughter in NJ), and being out with our whippet.” He served on the Boulder Bach Festival board for over 10 years, played trombone with the Niwot Semi-Marching Free Grange Band, and played regularly with the Colorado Recorder Society. He was also an expert skier, starting when he was eight, and an avid canoeist and bicyclist.
For Alix, “I love being with my husband, talking with our children and extended family and long-time friends on the phone, collecting recipes and eating interesting food, reading, watching DVDs and Masterpiece, and being with our whippet Abigail. I L-O-V-E flowers and going to the Denver Botanic Gardens. I also love going to exhibits at the Denver Art Museum.”
We are so lucky to have these two amazing souls among us.