Allen Kifer

Allen Kifer

10/31/2013

Allen Kifer, a scholar of U.S. race relations and longtime faculty member in the Department of History, died October 30, 2013. He was 85. 

A native of Salina, Kansas, Allen was a veteran of the U.S. Navy who served from 1946 to 1948 and later in the U.S. Naval Reserve, before earning a B.A. degree at Phillips University. He obtained master's and doctoral degrees at the University of Wisconsin. His dissertation, "The Negro under the New Deal, 1933-41" was cited in Richard Hofstadter's Pulitzer Prize-winning book Age of Reform.

Allen taught briefly at Dartmouth College before joining the Skidmore faculty in 1961. One of his key interests was curriculum development. He developed courses on Black history and African history and received a grant from the State Education Department and the Ford Foundation to attend a summer seminar to prepare the course on African history. He was promoted to associate professor in 1974 and held that title until retirement.

He was a pioneer in the College's University Without Walls program at the Great Meadow Correctional Facility and in offering the History Department's writing intensive course on campus. He was the general editor of the revised edition of the Encyclopedia of American History and pursued research on race and politics in the South, which he drew upon for a Liberal Studies course, "The Changing South," that he regularly taught. 


Known for an abiding concern for Skidmore's archives, he served as College archivist for two years and was appointed in 1976 by then-Governor Hugh Carey to a new State Historical Records Advisory Board.

Allen served as president of the Skidmore chapter of AAUP, chaired the Committee on Educational Policy and Planning, and served on several other College committees. He twice chaired the Department of History.

History Department colleagues Margaret Pearson and Patricia-Ann Lee recalled Allen's cordiality. Patricia-Ann said, "Allen was a wonderful man. He was the perfect scholar and a gentleman, both supportive and considerate." Government Professor Roy Ginsberg called Allen "a kind, gracious, generous, dedicated, and level-headed colleague. He was the kind of community and faculty servant to whom I looked for guidance, mentorship, and example."

Allen retired in 1997.

Allen was an officer of both the Liberal Party in New York State and the Saratoga County Liberal Party. He also was a member of the Organization of American Historians and other professional societies. He realized a lifelong dream when he earned his private pilot's license at the age of 60. He was a member and officer of the Condair Flyers Club.

Allen's survivors include his wife, Devra Rowland Kifer, whom he married in 1966; daughter Pamela Allen-Goad of Clifton Park; son Richard Allen Kifer of Lebanon, N.H.; daughter Teresa Alice Benson of Hudson Falls; and four grandchildren.

Private funeral services were followed by interment at the Saratoga National Cemetery.

Tags: Memoriam, History, Allen Kifer
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