By Vincent Lucarelli
Blade’s personal editor
Gilbert Richard Kern, Jr., a noted scholar who taught many people over a long multidisciplinary career in education, died Jan. 3 at Blanchard Valley Hospital in Findlay. He was 89 years old.
He was hospitalized with respiratory problems and died shortly after, his son Kevin said Monday. No specific cause of death is known to the family at this time.
After graduating from Winebrenner Theological Seminary at Findlay in 1958, Mr. Kern joined the faculty there in 1960, eventually serving as the school’s president from 1963 to 1970 and overseeing Winebrenner’s transition to an independent institution delivering diplomas. Mr. Kern’s daughter, Carolyn Schlicher, connects the great faith that manifested throughout her father’s life to the experiences he had in his youth.
Born December 5, 1932, to Gertrude and Gilbert Kern, Sr., in Roseville, Michigan, Mr. Kern spent three years living in India in his late teens, while his father, who was too old to be drafted for World War II, volunteered to work on the pipelines in the aftermath of the war.
“He had a lot of really insightful things about how he experienced God,” Ms Schlicher said of her father.
Ms Schlicher told a story her father told about a train journey in India and having to step over bodies when disembarking.
“There was such abject poverty and such a breakdown of civilization that he was experiencing at the same time he was experiencing some really wonderful things about this culture that stayed with him all his life,” Ms Schlicher said. “I always felt that kind of information about what he was going to do later in life with his involvement in ethical culture, society, with his involvement in civil rights issues and trying to make sure that people who really needed help were helped.”
Although personal beliefs about religion were often at the heart of what he did, Ms Schlicher describes her father as someone who understood other people’s beliefs and their struggles, mentioning a time when his father gave a loan to another parishioner from his Unitarian church. church.
“I have different beliefs than my father, but he always had respect for where I am with my faith,” Ms Schlicher said. “I was a little more evangelical, and still am. He always spoke with me with respect, like we differed on a lot of things, but I never felt like he didn’t want to talk about the things. things that interested me about my faith because there were things that interested him in his faith.”
Later, towards the end of his tenure at Winebrenner and after, Mr. Kern earned a doctorate from the University of Chicago Divinity School in 1968 and was hired at Findlay College, where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1954. Here, Mr. Kern taught history full-time for nearly three decades until his retirement in 1998, when he was named professor emeritus. Throughout his tenure he published on a variety of topics, including a written history of Findlay College itself. The book won the Outstanding Local History Award from the Ohio Association of Historical Societies and Museums in 1986.
The Kern family mentioned that their father’s college career was not always encouraged by his blue-collar parents, but was nurtured by educators he had throughout his own college career, for whom he greatly revered.
Milton Peters was a colleague of Mr. Kern, whom he called Dick, at Findlay College, which became the University of Findlay in 1989. For 13 years, from the 1980s to the early 1990s, Mr. Kern and Mr. Peters co-taught a freshman seminar class called “Roads to Awareness” that aimed to expose freshmen to a variety of topics in an engaging way.
“When he was teaching he came across as a sort of mild-mannered teacher, but there were times when he would raise his voice and become almost evangelical in his approach or be very loud and loud, and that was a way of making a period,” Mr. Peters said. “Teachers have to be actors and express their egos in the classroom, and that was definitely another side of Dick.”
Mr Peters said Mr Kern, who he kept in touch with after their teaching career ended through the local Beacon Club, could always rely on straight facts and that, above all, he wanted the students to think.
Mr. Kern’s son Kevin, now himself a professor of history at the University of Akron, knew this well since he helped his father with some of the research on the Findlay College history book.
Young Mr. Kern described his father in private life as an avid stamp collector, Michigan Wolverines football fan and gardener of some repute.
“It wasn’t always very popular with us kids because if he worked in the garden, we had to work in the garden,” Mr Kern said. “We had to go out and do the weeding whether we wanted to or not. The funny thing that each of us, after growing up and starting our families, started growing our own gardens, which showed the long-term effect dad’s .”
Rhubarb, raspberries, blueberries and eggplants from Mr. Kern’s garden reached the dining table for years until a neuropathic condition that reduced sensation in the extremities prevented him from gardening as he did before.
Still, Mr. Kern recalls times at Michigan football games with his father and how the eldest Mr. Kern’s career influenced his own.
“I have no doubt why I chose this career path because of my father,” young Mr. Kern said. “He was always very encouraging.”
The eldest Mr. Kern married Marilyn Rayle in June 1955 with whom he had four children. This marriage lasted until 1981. He is survived by his second wife Sharon, whom he married in December 1982. Mr. Kern is also survived by his brothers Mathiyas and Omar Kern, four children: Christopher Garrett-Kern , Kathleen Kern, Kevin Kern, and Carolyn Schlicher; two stepchildren: Greg Hershey and Lisa Taylor; 13 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
A celebration of life is planned for later this year.
The family recommends a tribute in Mr. Kern’s honor at the university’s archives and museum, the Shafer Library at Findlay University or the Blanchard Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, of which Mr. Kern was a member. Founding Member.
Published by The Blade on January 18, 2022.