A Biographical Summary of the Life of Donald W. Dayton

by Deane Dayton and Jim Dayton

Just as his father, Wilber Jr. did before him, Donald Dayton raised the bar of Christian Evangelical thought, understanding and teaching to new heights.  He did so on an academic plane that very few Professors, and dignitaries of the faith have the mind and skills to accomplish.  He equipped influential evangelicals throughout the world with the academic knowledge to face its challenges.  He was a “mover and shaker” in Christian Evangelical Academia.

The Paul Dayton family had the privilege of spending Christmas with Wilber’s family in about 1957.  Don would have been about 15 at the time.  When we arrived at their home in Wilmore Kentucky, Don was building a Computer at the kitchen table. In 1957?  He was truly a “beautiful mind.”  

The following is a Biographical Summary provided by his brother Deane Dayton.

Personal Data:

            Name:  Donald Wilber Dayton

            Last Residence:  Pasadena Highlands, 1575E. Washington Blvd., Apt. 813,

 Pasadena, California

            Birth:  August 25, 1942, Chicago, IL

            Death:  May 2, 2020, CA


            Parents:  Wilber T. (Jr.) and Donna Fisher Dayton

            Wife:  Lucille Sider, married June 9, 1969 in the Yale Divinity School

Chapel, New Haven, Connecticut, (Met at Yale Divinity School, divorced in 1980s)

            Son:  Charles Soren Dayton, born July, 1976

            Siblings: Carol Jo Mayer, Deane K. Dayton, Janet Elizabeth Manley


            Houghton College, Mathematics & Philosophy, B. A., 1963

            Columbia University, Woodrow Wilson Fellow

            Yale Divinity School, Woodrow Wilson Fellow, B.D., 1969

            Asbury Theological Seminary

            University of Kentucky, Library Science and Bibliography, 1969

            University of Chicago, Ph.D., 1983

Academic and Ecclesiastical Societies:

            President, Wesleyan Theological Society

            President, Societal for Pentecostal Studies

            Vice President, Karl Barth Society of North America

            Member, National Council of Churches, Faith and Order Commission

            Representative, National Council of Churches, Harare WCC Convention     

Academic & Work Experience:

            Asbury Seminary

            Greenville College

            North Park Seminary

            Northern Baptist Seminary

            Drew University

            Azusa Pacific University

The best source I know for his professional life is the book “From the Margins:  A Celebration of the Theological Work of Donald W. Dayton” edited by Christian T. Collins Winn, published in 2007 by one of Don’s students and Friends.  It contains reprints of several of Don’s papers and a few related papers by others.  I think the most interesting part is Don’s “Autobiographical Response” and a Select Bibliography of Don’s publications, pages 383-430.  The Autobiography is an interesting read and provides a lot in insight into Don’s life.  The book is available for purchase from Amazon or free online at: https://books.google.com/books?id=fiD1BgAAQBAJ  .

Tributes to Don have been published by:

The Wesleyan Church: https://www.wesleyan.org/a-tribute-to-donald-dayton

Christianity Today: https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/may-web-only/donald-dayton-heart-makes-theologian.html

His books include:

The American Holiness Movement: A Bibliographic Introduction.  Wilmore, KY: B. L. Fisher Library of Asbury Theological Seminary, 1971.

Discovering an Evangelical Heritage, New York: Harper & Row, 1976 and subsequent editions.

The Evangelical Roots of Pentecostalism.  Metuchen: Scarecrow, 1987. (Don’s Dissertation)

He also edited or authored dozens of papers, articles, book chapters and volumes.  Partial lists can be found in “From the Margins.” (see pages 381-382, 427-430)

Don was an avid book collector.  A large collection of his books and papers are in the Special Collection of the David Allan Hubbard Library, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA.

The Donald W Dayton Papers, 1980-2004 document Dayton’s involvement in ecumenical activities, such as participation in scholarly associations and formal dialogues with representatives from differing forms of Christianity. Material formats include Dayton’s published and unpublished essays, correspondence, conference materials, and photographs. The archival collection supplements Fuller Theological Seminary’s purchased acquisition of Donald Dayton’s 22,000 volume library in 1991. The book collection includes strong sub-collections in Holiness and Pentecostal studies, American Evangelicalism, Abolitionism, and Barth studies. The Dayton library was integrated into the Fuller Theological Seminary main collection is available to researchers through local interlibrary loan systems.


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