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Longtime Centre College dean, faculty member dies at 92

Max Cavnes was at Centre from 1958 to 1985

DANVILLE, Ky. (April 30, 2015) — Max P. Cavnes, former Centre College dean of men and a 27-year member of the history faculty, died early Tuesday. He was 92.

Centre photo
Centre photo

Cavnes and his late wife, Doris, arrived on campus in July of 1958. In addition to teaching American history, he was a faculty resident of Breckinridge Hall.

Cavnes is probably best known for being dean of men from 1960-73.

Cavnes was instrumental in easing the way for the first black students at Centre, beginning in 1962 with Timothy Kuzi ’65, a transfer student from Ghana. He famously told fraternity leaders in 1971 that every fraternity would pledge black members that year—or he would recommend that their charters be lifted.

Cavnes’ love for dogs was legendary. A number of canine characters—among them Charley Brown, Tripod, Underdog, Little Black Dog, Whiskey, Max, and Rusty—enjoyed the lofty title “campus dog” during his time at Centre, and he helped found the Danville-Boyle County Humane Society in 1972.

An Indiana native, Cavnes held degrees from Indiana University (Ph.D., M.A., A.B.) and a divinity degree from Yale. His undergraduate education was interrupted by military service during World War II.

Among his many Centre honors, he received the David F. Hughes award given for outstanding service to Centre in 1982, was named an honorary alumnus in 1991, and received an honorary degree from Centre in 1997. His name continues to be an important presence on campus through the Max P. Cavnes Freshman Book Prize awarded each year to the male and female students with the highest GPA at the end of their first year, the Max P. Cavnes Prize awarded to the “best-loved and most-respected” senior man and senior woman, and the Doris and Max Cavnes Scholarship that helps needy students attend Centre.

Doris and Max Cavnes retired to Vermont in 1985.

Cavnes is survived by his son, Richard Cavnes Neese; two granddaughters, Karen Sunseri and Kelly Eoff; and three great grandsons. A campus memorial service will be held in the fall during Centre’s Homecoming.