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Vernon James Ehlers (1934-2017) | Heritage Hall, Hekman Library

Name: Vernon James Ehlers (1934-2017)

Historical Note:

Vernon James Ehlers is the youngest of the four children of Rev. John William Christian and Alice Cornelia (née Doorn) Ehlers, born on 6 Feb 1934 in Pipestone, MN. He suffered from severe asthma as a child and as a consequence was unable to attend school. He was home- and self-schooled and received a diploma from Edgerton (MN) Christian School and did his high school work via correspondence. He attended Calvin College, 1952-1955; and the University of California, Berkeley, from which he received an AB in 1956 and a PhD in 1960; his doctoral dissertation was “The Nuclear Spins and Moments of Several Radioactive Gallium Isotopes.”

He taught and conducted scientific research at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley, 1956-1966, and joined the Physics Department of Calvin College in 1966, ultimately serving as department chair. He was a member of the Faculty Organization Study Committee (FOSCO), 1968-1977, that developed a new faculty governance system for the college, whose enrollment had grown from 500 in 1945 to 3,200 when Ehlers joined the faculty. He left the college faculty in 1983 to serve in the Michigan Legislature.

Ehlers was elected to the Kent County Board of Commissioners, 1975-1983; the Michigan House of Representatives, 1983-1985; and the Michigan Senate, 1985-1993. In 1993 he won a special election in Michigan’s 5th District (later 3rd), after the death of former fellow faculty member Congress Member Paul B. Henry (Coll. 357) and won a full term in 1994, and subsequent elections, serving until 2011.

Ehlers married Johanna Meulink on 14 Jun 1958; they have four children: Heidi, Brian, Marla, and Todd. The Ehlers were founding members of Faith Fellowship Christian Reformed Church, Walnut Creek, CA, in 1961.

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