Roy Emerson Wenger
They also serve who hearken to a different drummer. Roy Wenger passed away peacefully Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2004, after a long and useful life.
He was born May 20, 1908, to Joseph and Emma Gerig Wenger in Smithville, Ohio, a Mennonite farming community, and grew up on the familys 80-acre farm. His parents passed on a love of singing and stories of the familys history, particularly those of ancestors who emigrated from Switzerland and Alsace to escape military conscription for Napoleon ill-fated wars.
Roy later wrote, "As a 5-year-old, my mother kindly but firmly placed before me the attractive red and yellow pop-gun that had been given me by a well-meaning friend and after a long serious talk, persuaded me to put it in the morning kindling in the kitchen stove. We then went by horse and surrey to town where we picked out the most beautiful, gleaming red coaster wagon we could find. It was the substitute. I was almost mollified, and I never forgot the point she made in her quiet, loving counseling that we never point guns at people or threaten them."
He graduated from Bluffton College and began teaching history at Cuyahoga Falls High School, south of Cleveland.
After several years, he went on to Ohio State University, earning a Ph.D. in education, specializing in the then-groundbreaking field of audio-visual education. At a square-dance party for students, he met Florence Heineman, whom he married in 1941.They were married for 48 years, until Florences death.
In late 1942, Roy was drafted, and as a conscientious objector, chose to do his alternative service with the Civilian Public Service program. His graduate school adviser warned him that such a decision would ruin his career, to which Roy replied, none of us really know whether it will ruin my career, and we hope that will not happen. He was sent to CPS Camp 5 near Colorado Springs, Colo., as the camps educational director, but within six months had been transferred to Montana to open the very first camp for something called smokejumpers, an experimental firefighting program piloted by Earl Cooley and Frank Derry in the summer of 1940, which had been put on hold because of the lack of available men following America's entry into World War II.
Set in the Ninemile Valley, Camp Menard soon was populated by about 300 conscientious objectors, all of whom had volunteered and passed rigorous tests to qualify for the new program. Roy and Florence, the camp dietician for that first year, worked hard and made friendships that have lasted for more than 60 years. Roy credited the success of the camp to the COs, who were happy to have a chance to risk their lives in a cause for the benefit of humanity as a whole, and to U.S. Forest Service personnel who were highly trained, capable, reasonably tolerant and determined to make the project a success.
At the close of the war, Roy and Florence moved back to Ohio and established long teaching careers. In 1948 Roy went to Kent State University as its first director of audio-visual education. He was awarded a Fulbright Lecturers Grant in 1954 and moved the family to Japan, where he taught at International Christian University.
After returning from Japan, he became Kent State President Robert White's development man, setting up programs and getting them running before turning them over to long-term directors. In this way, he served as KSUs first director of the Bureau of Educational Research and Service, of the Office of Institutional Research and of the Center for International and Comparative Programs, during which he set up exchange programs for students and professors in a dozen countries around the world England, Taiwan and Tanzania among them.
He remained on the faculty until age 70 in 1978. His final gift to the university was his work in helping to get the Center for Peaceful Change up and running in 1971. Now called the Center for Applied Conflict Management, it was one of the first programs in the United Stated to offer an undergraduate degree in conflict resolution and was planned as a living memorial of the events of May 4, 1970, when Ohio National Guardsmen killed four people and injured nine at Kent State during a student protest of the Vietnam War. Because of his own history, Roy served as an unofficial counselor to a number of young men who found their way to his office in the university library and wanted to discuss their feelings about military service. Roy told them about his experiences and said he was comfortable in suggesting alternative service or, in case of a young mans refusal to be at all involved with the Selective Service, in discussing the ethical issues involved in going to prison rather than submitting to the draft but also said he was not comfortable with the idea of leaving the country to avoid the draft. He believed that objectors had an obligation to serve their country in one way or the other as noncombatant or as an example of conscience. The events of May 4, however, caused him to question whether the government had broken its compact with its citizens and caused him to have more forgiving feelings toward young men who chose to leave.
After retiring, Roy moved to Missoula, where his daughter Susan Duffy, and her family live. True to his lifetime work at start-ups, he became heavily involved in establishing the Golden College at the University of Montana, an educational program that welcomed seniors and retirees.
Florence died in 1989 and in 1992, Roy married Lillian Hoff, whom he met at a square dance. They delighted in each other and spent 12 very happy years together, traveling to elderhostels around the country and to Europe.
A personal note. Dennis Symes (MYC-63), Jill Leger (Associate) and myself had the pleasure of sharing a table with Roy and his wife at the Sunday morning Memorial Service at the 2004 reunion in Missoula.
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Roy Emerson Wenger