Stephen Kersten Dunning
July 10, 1989 – May 10, 2019
Stephen Kersten Dunning gently lay his burden down early in the morning of May 10, 2019. Stephen was a musician, composer, and a dedicated teacher who valued the well-being of his students above all else. Stephen was a complex and intelligent person, uncompromising, and impactful in the relationships formed during his life. Stephen was born on July 10, 1989 in Bryan, TX. He graduated from Bryan High School (with honors) a year early, and he became an Aggie at age 17, focusing on music. He also joined the Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestra as a double bass player. The next year Stephen transferred to the University of North Texas, where he majored in Music Composition and Theory and minored in double bass and cello performance. Stephen graduated early (with honors) at age 21.
Stephen began his career as a music teacher in Texas Public Schools. He always taught in Title I schools and was acutely aware of the problems that his poor, especially black and Hispanic students faced in their daily lives. Stephen kept an eye on his troubled students, and he spotted signs of distress early on. He made a point of getting to know their parents, often visiting their homes. Stephen worked hard and often stayed late to give private lessons to promising young musicians. He never charged for his services, and on several occasions he gave bright but poor students his own instruments. Stephen and his father joined together each year to donate thousands of dollars to local schools and charities focusing on the needs of poor children. Stephen loved hearing from his former students and continued to counsel some of them long after they left his classroom. It is an understatement to say that Stephen loved his students. He was especially fond of his former students from Hearne, where he worked for two years. During the past two years Stephen worked at the Harmony Science Academy in Bryan.
Stephen would want to be remembered for his music, his love for art, his humor and intellect, and most of all his love for living things – especially children. He was devoted to his family and close friends, and he loved them fiercely. Starting at age 8, Stephen and his father regularly played chess and talked about music, history, philosophy, and religion. Recently, Stephen and his father worked on a research project focusing on the musical evolution of Mussorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov. Stephen was an avid and deep reader, and he was a keen student of theology. He firmly believed in God and enjoyed learning about Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.
Stephen is survived by his parents Chester Dunning and Elsie Kersten; his aunt and uncle, Claudia and Vic Lively; his aunt, Carol Ann O’Connär; his uncle, Al Kersten; his cousins, Mario Goertzel, Levi Brown, Ari Goertzel, Carolyn Goertzel, Megan Goertzel, Anora Brown, and Leah Brown; his “second mothers” Karen Hillier and Jan Krammer; his best friend and “brother” Sam Woodfin; his dear “brother” Doug Krammer; many other friends, and his cat Dolly Lama.
A Celebration of Stephen’s life will take place on Saturday, May 18, at 2 p.m. at Callaway Jones Funeral Center, 3001 S. College Ave. in Bryan. The tribute to Stephen will be followed immediately by a reception also at Callaway-Jones. A special invitation to attend is issued to Stephen’s beloved students and their families. Stephen’s parents and friends hope to see you there.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be given to the Boys & Girls Club of Brazos Valley (900 W. William J. Bryan Parkway, Bryan, TX 77803) or the Brazos Valley Food Bank (1501 Independence Ave, Bryan, TX 77803).
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