Dennis William Leitner of Carbondale

Dennis William Leitner, 80, passed away at 4:07 p.m. Thursday, May 9, 2024, surrounded by his family.

Dennis Leitner was born in Alton on Dec. 4, 1943. His father, the late Oscar William Leitner, was a bank operator, and his mother, the late Muriel Gertrude (Block) Leitner, was a bookkeeper.

In the early 1950s, they moved to Lakewood, Colo., where he went to high school and would meet his first wife Sandra (nee Goltl.) He graduated as the salutatorian of Lakewood High School in 1962. He attended Antioch College and San Diego State during the 1960s. He received dual degrees in physics and mathematics.

In 1965, he married Sandra Leitner, and for their honeymoon, they volunteered for the Peace Corps. They were assigned to be teachers in Ethiopia from 1966 to 1968. He and Sandra were married for 33 years until her death.

After the Peace Corps, he and Sandra attended the University of Maryland at College Park, where he received an M.A. in 1971 and a Ph.D. in 1975, both in research design, measurement, and statistics. In 1973, he had a son, David John, and in 1975 another son, Paul Andrew.

In 1974 he moved his family to Carbondale to teach at SIUC. He fell in love with the region and the people and lived there for the rest of his life.

Dennis Leitner has enriched the lives of many students, friends and family for decades. His motto was “I’m glad I can help.” He played many life roles: professor, parent, proud grandparent, researcher, social activist, world traveler, Peace Corps volunteer, athlete, lifelong learner, musician, patron of arts, and Christian of deep faith and action. His tradition of selfless support for family, students and the community will be his legacy.

He was an avid outdoorsman. In the '80s and '90s he was assistant scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts Troop 66. During that time, he made several trips to the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico with his sons.

His father taught him “If you are going to do something, you should do it right,” and this was a philosophy he lived by. He was diligent and thorough in everything that he did. In high school, he practiced piano diligently. At the age of 65, he started playing the banjo and would consistently practice it four hours per day. Dennis was a competitive tennis player. In the early 1990s, he was ranked as the no. 1 tennis player in Carbondale and no. 7 in the region for his age group of 45-54.

Dennis was a professor of statistics at Southern Illinois University Carbondale from 1974 to 2003. He loved teaching and after his retirement, he continued to teach for five years as an adjunct professor at Southeast Missouri State and at SIU. He was beloved and admired by his students and colleagues. His students not only learned statistics but learned to enjoy and appreciate the subject. He was known for his caring, supportive, and engaging teaching style.

Dennis taught his entire career in the Educational Psychology Department. His statistics courses were designed to teach students how to interpret data. They were mandatory courses for many disciplines, including social sciences, physical science, and agriculture. He greatly influenced many researchers, who would then become influential themselves. Additionally, Dennis served as associate dean of the SIU Graduate School and as the faculty adviser for Phi Delta Kappa for many years.

After retirement, Dennis became a lifelong learner by being a committed member of LIR (Learning in Retirement). LIR kept Dennis younger, sharper, engaged in various experiences, adventures nurtured by great friends avid for the same search of lifelong lessons.

In his life role as a Patron of Arts, Dennis and Julieta became sponsors and board members of the Southern Illinois Music Festival/SIU College of Arts and Media and School of Music. When Dennis saw his name in the annual programs of the School of Music, his face was illuminated with a beautiful smile. Since 2017, they opened their house every year to host musicians during the festival. Dennis and Julieta loved to mentor and support the School of Music graduate students.

On Sept. 12, 1999, at the Church of Good Shepherd (COGS), he married Julieta Campos Monteiro and “all he wanted to change in her was her name. He loved her just the way she is.” As an avid tennis player, he said in the wedding reception that he was so happy for his “chance of a second serve.” The foundation of their marriage and love life was solid. Their unbroken daily partnership of 25 years was named as “Romeo and Juliet,” “peanut butter and jelly sandwich” or simply “you two are just a beautiful couple; always together.” Love is eternal and they will stay married forever. Julieta and Dennis were a bicultural couple. They lived in Fortaleza, Brazil and in Makanda, Ill. Their appreciation for multiculturalism has been a lighthouse in their local, international activities, functions, and their leisure time. As Road Scholars, they traveled to many countries in Europe, South and Central America. Julieta and Dennis traveled to Egypt as Phi Delta Kappa members and to South Africa as presenters in an International Conference. In 2018, Dennis and Julieta volunteered to go to Catamayo, Ecuador to build a house as part of the Habitat for Humanity project.

Dennis’s vision was “to think globally and act locally.” Dennis supported the initiative of the Presbyterian Church and Church of the Good Shepherd (COGS) to house an Afghan Refugee family. Dennis has served as a COGS representative in the Interfaith Council and a longtime member of the Carbondale Race Unity Group. Locally, Dennis was a leading force contributing to the local governance of Makanda Township. Denny also initiated a Christian and Muslim breakfast that benefited the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund.

“Faith in Action” is the motto that Dennis followed as a Christian man: “Thoughts and prayers are empty of meaning if there is no concrete gesture of love and care to express them. To make them real.” Dennis volunteered his time going to a Jackson County jail and reading to inmates. Dennis took specific actions of care and support for the homeless people in Carbondale and for the local mission of the Warming Center. He sent English versions of the Quran book to the Muslim inmates of the Vienna Correctional Center supporting the pastoral service provided in the facility.

Family members will carry on his legacy. They are his wife Julieta Monteiro Leitner; sons David and Paul Leitner; daughter-in-law Carrie (Hood) Leitner; granddaughter Hannah Leitner; brother Jim and sister-in-law Nancy Leitner; brother-in-law John Goltl, sister-in-law Marilyn, niece and goddaughter Elizabeth Grace Leitner; nieces Christie and Holly Goltl, and nephew Derk Goltl; cousins Diane Block and Suzy McAfoos; second cousins Angela Sellitto-Keith, Elizabeth Sellitto, Ali and Travis Tarrant, David and Michelle Place, and Ashley McAfoos; and following generations. Also surviving are his Brazilian brother-in-law Paulo Leopoldo and wife Jaidete, nephew Pedro Paulo and niece-in-law Vanessa, and grandnephew Joao Pedro; niece Tatiana and grandnephew Davi; nephew-in-law Vladmir; brother-in-law Jose Renato and wife Ausonia; niece Lais and nephew-in-law Renato and grandnephew Miguel and grandniece Clara; niece Elisa and nephew-in-law Mario and grandnephew Francisco; sister-in-law Fatima, niece Marina and nephew-in-law Cristiano, grandnephews Matheus and Marcelo and grandniece Maria, nephew Eduardo Augusto and Luisa and grandnephew Theo; brother-in-law Antonio Eduardo and wife Anik, nephew Gustavo and niece-in-law Geisa, grandnephew Alexandre; niece Aline and Marcio; brother-in-law Pedro Augusto and wife Eliana; nephew Adriano and Bernardo; sister-in-law Maria Ester and nephew Caue, nephew Andre and niece-in-law Tatiana and grandniece Sofia; and many cousins and dear friends.

A Celebration of Life Service for Dennis will be held at 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 18, 2024, at First United Methodist Church in Carbondale with Pastor Kim Magwire, Pastor John Sims and Pastor Karen Knodt officiating. Visitation will be from 2:30 p.m. until the time of service on Saturday at the church.

Meredith Funeral Home in Carbondale assisted the family with arrangements. To leave a story or memory of Dennis, visit