George Daniel "Dan" Little

11-17-2009 by

Geoff Ashmun
December 18, 1929 - November 16, 2009

It is with deep sadness and humble gratitude that McCormick Theological Seminary reports the death of the Reverend Dr. George Daniel “Dan” Little (M.Div., Class of 1954), Life Trustee and former Interim President of McCormick, who died under hospice care in Madison, Wisconsin, on Monday, November 16, 2009. A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, November 28, at 11:00 a.m. at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Madison. The family suggests that in lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to McCormick Theological Seminary.

Dan was diagnosed with brain cancer in April of 2008 and outlasted his prognosis by several months. His remaining time was marked by several visits from McCormick’s faculty, staff, and trustees including a special celebration and presentation of the 2009 Distinguished Alumnus Award on June 21.


Dr. Cynthia M. Campbell, President of McCormick, remarked today on the gifts for leadership that Dan brought to McCormick, especially during a critical time of transition in 1993-1994, when McCormick was seeking a new president.

“When the seminary needed a pastoral, experienced administrator to help navigate a change in leadership, McCormick wisely looked to Dan. He was an insightful, generous mentor in my early days as president and he continued to be an important voice of accountability and an advocate of McCormick’s mission as a trustee for many years after. He knew McCormick as few others did, and we will miss his presence among us.”

"In Dan’s remarkable life and work, and in the ongoing relationship with the Little family, we also find so many reasons to celebrate and give thanks to God.”

Dan’s connection to McCormick began in the 1950s when he became a part of McCormick’s then-new urban ministry training program to be a more effective pastor to urban populations. Upon graduating from McCormick in 1954, Dan and his wife, Joan McCafferty Little, also a McCormick alumna, embarked on a distinguished career of partnership in ministry. Dan served several churches including full-time pastorates at Friendship Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh and First Presbyterian Church of Ithaca, New York, a six-month pastoral residency at Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village, Kansas, and an interim pastorate at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis.

Dan also served the denomination’s national office as executive staff for several years. In 1962, he joined the Board of National Missions of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. as head of the Urban Mission Office. In the early 1970s, he became Director of Budgeting for the General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC) and then served as Executive Director of the GAMC for another seven years until he was called back to parish ministry in 1983.

Following Dan and Joan’s move to Madison, and Joan’s death in 2007, he remained active, working with two congregations through difficult pastoral transitions. Dan also served the John Knox Presbytery on its Committee on Preparation for Ministry and guided the Presbytery as it worked to apply a meaningful process to implement the General Assembly Task Force’s recommendations for the Peace, Unity and Purity of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

While Dan’s relationship with McCormick spans nearly 60 years, he represents an inspired chapter in the larger story of the Little family’s commitment to the seminary, pre-dating even the McCormick name. Dan’s great-grandfather Henry Smith Little graduated from Lane Theological Seminary in Hanover, Indiana, in the 1860s and his grandfather Henry Little is a McCormick alumnus from the 1890s. Dan’s son, Dan Jr., received his M.Div. from McCormick in the 1990s.

“As Dan’s friends and colleagues, we grieve with and hold his family in our prayers,” Campbell said. “But in Dan’s remarkable life and work, and in the ongoing relationship with the Little family, we also find so many reasons to celebrate and give thanks to God.”