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Skidmore College
Skidmore Retirees

Denton W. Crocker

Denton Winslow Crocker, noted zoologist and professor emeritus of biology, died Feb. 19, 2012, of complications from cancer.

Born May 1, 1919, in Salem, Mass., Denton graduated from Northeastern University in 1942 and was immediately drafted into the Army. Upon returning home, he married Jean-Marie Jensen, and they moved to Ithaca, N.Y., where he enrolled at Cornell University, earning master's and doctoral degrees.

After teaching at Amherst and Colby colleges, Denton came to Skidmore in 1960, where he chaired the Biology Department for 17 years and taught until he retired in 1983. He headed the department at a time of dramatic change. The move to a new campus enabled him to oversee the transition of his department and its laboratory resources into the modern age.

Biology Professor Roy Meyers called Denton "the founder of Skidmore's modern biology department." He added, "What we are now is due to Denton. Much of what I learned about being a faculty member and teaching labs is because of Denton. He was vested in the department and its students."

According to emeritus Professor Robert P. Mahoney, who joined the department in 1964, "Denton was very supportive of me and my family as we settled into Saratoga Springs and I began my first full-time job as a college faculty member. When I told Denton that I wanted to seek grant funding for an electron microscope for Skidmore, he provided a lot of guidance and editing of my application to the National Science Foundation. Our application was approved, making Skidmore one of the first small liberal arts colleges to have an electron microscope.

"Denton could have said no to my idea, but his cooperation opened the door to many good things in the Biology Department that continue to this day."

Mahoney also recalled, "Denton encouraged me to get involved with committees, and I gained a greater sense of the College community. He also encouraged faculty to think 'interdisciplinary' and because of that, I got involved with bioethics."

In 1968, Denton was selected to deliver the Edwin M. Moseley Faculty Research Lecture, the highest honor that the faculty can confer upon a colleague. His talk, "Crayfishes, Biology and Values: A Personal View," built on his doctoral dissertation, The Crayfishes of New York (New York State Museum, 1957), and many summers studying crayfish. His other publications include Handbook of theCrayfish of Ontario, written with David Barr, and The Crayfishes of New England. Research colleagues honored him by naming a crayfish species (Distocambarus crockeri) and a subgenus (Crockerinus) for him. His paper "Malaria Survey and Malaria Control Detachments in the South West Pacific Area in World War 2," was published in the Papua New Guinea Medical Journal in 2009. In recent years he found great pleasure in writing poetry and had poems published in Avocet, Blueline, and The Aroostook Review.

He was involved with Bethesda Episcopal Church, the Home of the Good Shepherd, and the Church of St. Peter, where he and his wife organized an ecumenical volunteer group, FISH, which provided transportation, shopping, and other services needed locally.

A lifelong music lover, Denton played recorder and was a devoted supporter of SPAC and the Saratoga Chamber Players. He also drew great strength from the natural world and spent countless hours backpacking, sailing, and camping – both alone and with his family.

Denton's survivors include Jean-Marie, his wife of 66 years; children Carol H. Crocker of Niskayuna, N.Y., Randy Crocker and Michael Whitton of Greenfield, N.Y., and Candace J. Warren (George) of Bethel, Conn.; three grandchildren and a great-grandson. He was predeceased by a son, Denton W. Crocker Jr., who was killed in the Vietnam War in 1966.