Cover photo for Wilbert "Bert" Ahern's Obituary
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1942 Wilbert "Bert" 2016

Wilbert "Bert" Ahern

July 12, 1942 — July 6, 2016

WILBERT H. “BERT” AHERN July 12, 1942 – July 6, 2016           Wilbert H. (Bert) Ahern, Horace T. Morse-Alumni Distinquished Professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota, Morris, passed away July 6, 2016, after handling cancer with the grace, courage, and optimism with which he lived his entire life. Bert saw the good in every person and every situation, and he was dearly loved by all he knew. His was an ecstatic embrace of life.      Bert was born July 12, 1942, in Greenville, IL, the third son of Dr. Alvin and Helen Ahern. Over the course of his childhood, he lived in several places, as his father's work as theology professor and Methodist minister took the family to Seattle, New York City, and Long Island. Bert graduated from Bayport/Blue Point High School in 1959 and entered Oberlin College, where, despite having suffered a serious accident the summer before his freshman year, he played on the college soccer team. In his senior year at Oberlin, he began dating Janet Turbyne, and they married in December 1963.      Bert went on to receive a doctorate in U.S. history from Northwestern University in 1968 and soon after took a faculty position in the history department of the University of Minnesota, Morris (UMM), from which he retired in 2010. While at UMM, Bert earned numerous teaching and service awards, including the 2010 University of Minnesota President's Award for Outstanding Service, and was known for his tireless work in teaching, campus leadership, and making pedagogical and curricular changes at the campus. He served as Acting Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs (1978-79, 1992) and as Division Chairman of the Social Sciences (1987-1995); he also served on numerous campus and all-university committees. Bert's passion for justice and equality for all was never divorced from his teaching and scholarship; he spearheaded the recruitment and support of underrepresented groups at UMM, developed and taught the first class there in African-American history, and led the development of the Native American Studies major. He was a mentor to numerous faculty and, particularly, Native American students, and gave a voice to underrepresented groups on campus. His research on UMM's early history as an "Indian School" won him the Solon J. Buck Award from the MN State Historical Society's journal, Minnesota History (1984-85). In addition, he led the development of the UMM research archives center, the major reorganization of the UMM General Education Program, and the development of UMM's Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning. Upon his retirement, he and Janet started the Bert and Janet Ahern American Indian Studies Enhancement Fund. Later in his career, Bert also consulted as a Tribal Program officer for the Bush Foundation, visiting tribal colleges across the U.S. to build and assess their faculty development programs. Bert was an enthusiast of many things outside of his work; he loved reading, singing (including leading the Sunday hymn sing at church), running, biking, swimming, playing tennis, and kayaking with Janet on Palmer Lake, where they have lived in their retirement. He served on numerous boards and committees in the Park Rapids, MN, area: President, Palmer Lake Association; Board of Directors, Headwaters Lifelong Learning; the local DFL chapter; Classic Chorale; Heartland Concert Association Board; Friends of the Headwaters; Park Rapids Tennis; and the Hubbard Bike Group. He and Janet have been very active in their church, Hubbard United Methodist.      Bert will be lovingly remembered by his wife of 52 years, Janet; his children Jim (Meredith) and Alyson (Rob); his grandsons: Abijah, Rowan, and Sage; his siblings Frank (Merete), Bill (Sharon), Bob (Kathleen), and Helen (John); a brother-in-law David (Karen); as well as numerous cousins, nieces, and nephews.      Memorial Services will be held at 11:00 AM Tuesday, July 19, 2016 at Hubbard United Methodist Church in Hubbard, MN with Pastor Laurie Kantonen officiating. Visitation will be held for one hour prior to the service at the church. To leave online condolences or view the tribute please visit jonespearson.com.
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