A former Ferris leader has passed

Ferris’ 12th president passes away in early November

A headshot of Dr. Robert L. Ewigleben Photo courtesy of Ferris State University

On Sunday, Nov 3, Ferris’ 12th president, Dr. Robert L. Ewigleben passed away.

His death was observed on Friday, Nov. 8, by flying the flags half-staff. The next day, a moment of silence was observed before the start of the Ferris football game.

In mourning of the late former president, the now Ferris president released a statement.

“I had the fortunate pleasure of getting to know Dr. Ewigleben, as he was instrumental in the creation of our Doctorate of Community College Leadership just over a decade ago” Ferris’ President David Eisler said. “Patsy and I had the opportunity to visit with Dr. Ewigleben in mid-October. As always, he was keenly interested in the University and our plans for the future… President Ewigleben was a good friend and colleague who made a tremendous difference for Ferris State University. He will be truly missed.”

Ewigleben made an impact at Ferris with his tenure. He was in the midst of turning the college into a university. He served from 1971-1984

During his time at Ferris, President Ewigleben brought two major aspects to the university which are still around today. He established the Michigan College of Optometry, the only one in the state, and made Ferris hockey a division one sport.

Ewigleben had a heavy hand in shaping Ferris during his tenure at Ferris. He had more than 40 curriculum changes, established the six-million-dollar Manufacturing Resource and Production Center, and the Ewigleben Sports Complex as we know it today.

He also made the foreign exchange program stronger at Ferris by integrating more students from Belize, Columbia, and the Continents of Asia and Africa.

One professor remembers the late president when they first started here at Ferris.

“He was in his last year as president when I was hired 36 years ago. I remembered him as gracious and a strong leader. He carried himself with great confidence” said Ferris English professor Roxanne Cullen.

When talking to students, they did not know much but were fascinated by what Ewigleben achieved.

“I haven’t heard of him until I heard about his passing. He sounded like a great man and a great achiever, a motivated individual. It sounds like he was a role model and obviously a hard worker,” Ferris food industry and hospitality management sophomore Dylik Hunter said.

Ewigleben had hobbies in being a scratch golfer, a pilot, and racing sailboats.

A little-known fact about Robert Ewigleben is he survived two plane crashes where he was a passenger. Sadly he lost his second wife in one of the crashes. He met his third wife at a bridge tournament in Florida. They went on to play the number one team in the world for bridge.

Ewigleben will continue to be memorialized through the sports complex, which bears his name.

Former Ferris President Dr. Robert L. Ewigleben served as president of Ferris from 1971-1984. Photo courtesy of Ferris State University