Cover photo for Keith Yandell's Obituary
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1938 Keith 2020

Keith Yandell

July 16, 1938 — April 28, 2020

Keith Edward Yandell, age 81, passed away peacefully at home on April 28, 2020 after an extended battle with Parkinson’s Disease. Keith was born, an only child, to Phil and Velma (Edleman) Yandell on July 16, 1938 in Davenport, Iowa. He graduated from Cooley High School and Wayne State University in Detroit, which he was proud to consider his hometown. He completed his BA (History and Philosophy) and MA (Philosophy) in four years. He earned his PhD in philosophy from The Ohio State University. Keith married his high school sweetheart, Sharon Dee Murphy, on August 22, 1959.

Dr. Yandell taught at UW-Madison from 1966 until 2011. His philosophical work was widely discussed and valued by many for his ability to apply rigorous thinking to highly difficult issues without being pretentious. Highlights of his career included authoring six books and more than 100 articles and chapters, along with several course manuals. In addition, he edited or co-edited several volumes. He became Julius R. Weinberg Professor of Philosophy and for many years was also a Professor of South Asian Studies. His life's work was honored with a 2005 Christian Worldview conference and the 2012 book Philosophy and the Christian Worldview .

Professor Yandell loved his work and his students. He often spoke to and participated in events organized by Christian students and colleagues at UW and elsewhere. Many students came to Madison to study with him and his advisees often remained his close friends and colleagues; he even performed several of their weddings.

As a leading Christian philosopher, Dr. Yandell was invited to teach at the Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL, and did so from 2000-2014, serving as Affiliate Professor of Philosophy. He valued the opportunity to participate in a Christian academic community greatly. His classes were popular with students and he was deeply appreciated and respected by the Trinity community. As was his wish, Keith’s personal library of more than 20,000 volumes will now become part of Trinity’s collection.

When he wasn’t working, Keith’s greatest joy was spending time with his family. He played basketball, cards, and board games with his children throughout his life and adored sharing bedtime stories, and later lively academic discussions, with his grandsons. He also shared his life with several beloved dogs.

Keith loved playing Pinochle, Hearts, Euchre and Bridge - and usually won. He read voraciously in the areas of his professional interests but also enjoyed Chesterton, Conan Doyle, and history. He liked classic country music and old movies and was an avid Boston Celtics fan. Keith enjoyed puns and wordplay and had an extensive collection of owl figurines.

As a dear friend said recently, “When you were with Keith, he made you feel as though there was no place in the world he would rather be.” He will be sorely missed.

Keith is survived by his loving wife of more than 60 years; his children, Karen Yandell of Madison, [Keith] David (Julie) Yandell of Skokie, IL, and Merritt (Farhat) Yandell-Ahmad of Atlanta; and his grandsons, Steven Yandell of Chicago and Patrick Yandell of Skokie, IL. He is further survived by his sisters-in-law Colleen (Gary) Strait and Nancy Murphy, nephews Nick (Sara) Strait and Zach (Lindsay Williams) Strait, and nieces Sarah (Jim) Zachmann and Rebecca Murphy, all of Michigan, and by the “Berg Group,” his close friends of more than 40 years. Keith was preceded in death by his parents, parents-in-law, John P. and Dee Murphy, brother-in-law, J. Patrick Murphy, Jr., and by his son, Eric Yandell, in 2017.

Keith’s family would like to thank his caregivers from Seasons of Life, especially Sharyl, Erika, Jarod, Tiffany and Liz, who helped us honor Keith’s wish to stay in his home; the staffs of St. Mary’s Care Center and Agrace Hospice; and his physicians, especially Dr. Alexis Eastman and Dr. Laura Buyan Dent.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a memorial and celebration of Keith’s life will be held at a later date. Memorials may be made in Keith’s name to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Keith Yandell, please visit our flower store.


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