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Lowell L. Bennion, whose name became synonymous with community service in Utah, died Wednesday night in Salt Lake City at age 87.

An educator, counselor and author, Dr. Bennion was widely recognized for his public service and voluntarism on behalf of the poor, elderly and homeless.In 1986, the University of Utah honored him with the establishment of the Lowell Bennion Community Service Center to promote the spirit of public service inspired by its namesake.

"Dr. Bennion was a model of service to the individual who needed help, especially the elderly, and he was a person who modeled a belief in social justice as well," said Bennion Center director Irene Fisher.

She said the Bennion name opened doors to friends everywhere. "Whenever I introduced myself as the director of the Bennion Center, the most common response was, `Oh, Lowell Bennion is a friend of mine.' "

Fisher said Dr. Bennion is remembered by elderly widows whose gardens he had tended, men who as youths were enrolled in the Lowell Bennion Boys Ranch in the Teton Valley, Idaho, and the many students he counseled while serving as director of the LDS Institute of Religion, professor and dean at the U.

Gov. Mike Leavitt said, "Lowell Bennion is among the people I most admire in this community. We have lost a great friend and mentor, but his spirit of compassion and caring have made a permanent contribution because he has helped thousands of others to feel the joy of community service and caring."

Born July 26, 1908, in Salt Lake City to Milton and Cora Lindsay Bennion, Dr. Bennion married Merle Colton in 1928. She died in 1994. They are survived by five children: Lowell C. Bennion, Douglas C. Bennion, Steven Don Ben-nion, Howard Wayne Bennion and Ellen Jean Stone.

Dr. Bennion was graduated from the U. with honors in 1928 and became the first director of the LDS Institute of Religion adjacent to the campus in 1934. He held that position until 1962, when he was appointed assistant dean of students at the U.

Also in 1962, he was named director of community services for the Utah Center for the Prevention and Control of Juvenile Delinquency. He later became associate dean and professor of sociology.

In 1971, Dr. Bennion received the U. Alumni Association's Distinguished Alumnus Award. He left the U. in 1972 to become executive director of the Salt Lake Area Community Services Council, devoting the rest of his life to community service.

The U. awarded Dr. Bennion an honorary doctor of humane letters degree in 1982 for a "lifetime of service as an inspiring teacher, trusted counselor and compassionate community leader." He was inducted into the Beehive Hall of Fame in 1987 for his contributions to the people of Utah.

The Caring Institute in Washington, D.C., recognized Dr. Bennion in 1989 as "one of the most caring people in America." He was cited for organizing programs to feed the hungry, constructing and remodeling homes for the handicapped and providing a recreational outlet for troubled youth through his boys ranch.

His service also included membership on the board of directors of the Community Services Center, Legislative Juvenile Court Committee of the Legislative Counsel, advisory council of the Salt Lake Community Mental Health Center and LDS Youth Correlation Committee.

Funeral arrangements are pending.