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Longtime CLC instructor Dennis Eastman passes away

It is with deep regret and profound sadness that Central Lakes College announces the death of long-time Central Lakes College Health and Physical Education instructor Dennis Eastman.

Eastman passed away Saturday morning after an extended illness. Starting Monday, the college offered grief counseling for the campus community.

Eastman held a number of roles in his 26 years at the college, including instructor, football coach, women’s basketball coach and women’s softball coach.

Before Eastman started at the college in 1990, he obtained multiple degrees in his field, including a Bachelor’s of Science in Recreation from Moorhead State University, a Bachelor’s of Science in Physical Education from Mayville State University, a Master’s degree in Sports Management form the U.S. Sports Academy and a Diploma in Massage Therapy from the Minnesota School of Business. His work reflected his passion for teaching students as they learn and grow. He also taught two years from 2005-2007 at Century College in White Bear lake, MN.

His friends, many of who knew him as “Denny,” say his life was centered around his family.

Longtime friend and colleague Mike Barnaby, CLC Director of Financial Aid, said, “Denny was passionate about his wife, Pam, and children, Megan and Zack. He truly loved being a coach and getting to know his student athletes. He was the proverbial big man with a big heart.”

Barnaby and Eastman were both hired in the early 1990s under Brainerd Community College. They grew close in the two decades at the college together.

Another close friend of 19 years, CLC Athletics Director Jim Russell, said, “Dennis touched everybody that he was associated with – other coaches, players and students. But most importantly, he made a huge impact on the lives of our student athletes. His teams were his family.

“Dennis had a great athletic career himself, and he wanted to bring those experiences here to give our students a unique opportunity. When he coached, he truly connected to the students.”


Jane Peterson, a longtime colleague and head volleyball coach of CLC, said Eastman had a way with students that made them feel cared for.

“Dennis and I definitely had different coaching styles. His ways challenged me and forced me to examine my own intentions,” she said. “When his women’s basketball team won a national championship in 1996 that was incredibly motivating to me to aim high – the highest!”

Former student Chuck Stevens, who played football from 1996-97, said Eastman encouraged him to stay in the sport when he considered not playing his second year. After getting back on track following academic probation, Stevens contemplated leaving the team. One mid-summer night while working at a gas station, the business phone rang. It was Eastman on the other end.

“He reminded me of my talent and all of the work I had put in to just throw away,” Stevens said. “We talked for 20 minutes about life and growing up in general. … I was forever grateful of the effort on his part because the next season I experienced one of the most successful and enjoyable teams I had ever been part of.”



A celebration of Dennis’ life will be held on Sunday, April 23 at 2 p.m. in the gym on the Brainerd campus of CLC. A visitation for friends and family will be from 12-2 pm prior to the celebration of life.

The public is invited to attend.

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