Big Rapids, Mich. - Ferris State University and Bulldog Athletics have been saddened by the loss of Dr. Robert L. Ewigleben, who served as Ferris' 12th president and played a key role in the growth of athletics.
Widely regarded for his leadership in higher education, Dr. Ewigleben amassed a record of achievement during his more than 30 years as a teacher and administrator. He culminated his career as president of then Ferris State College, where he served from 1971 to 1984. He passed away on Sunday at the age of 91.
To help honor and recognize his numerous contributions, the Bulldog Football and Hockey teams will be wearing special helmet stickers this weekend with his initials. The Ferris flag will also be flown at half-staff in memory of President Ewigleben on Friday (Nov. 8).
President Ewigleben led a life full of learning, accomplishment and adventure. A United States Army veteran who served his country in Japan, he furthered his education and worked as a school teacher, coach, principal and superintendent. He began his higher education career at Purdue University, was vice president at Humboldt State University and then president of San Mateo Community College, at that time the largest community college in California. In 1971 he returned home to Michigan to serve as president of Ferris State College, a role he continued until 1984.
Dr. Ewigleben transformed Ferris during his 13-year tenure as president. There were many curricular and programmatic changes during this time, preparing the way for Ferris to become a university. Among his many accomplishments at Ferris include the creation of the Professional Golf Management degree, the first of its kind in the nation, establishing what is now the Michigan College of Optometry and bringing NCAA Division I hockey to Ferris.
Dr. Ewigleben was also instrumental in the creation of FSU's Doctorate of Community College Leadership just over a decade ago. In his retirement, Dr. Ewigleben was a consistent donor for the sports complex, which was built during his tenure and subsequently named for him, for athletics and student scholarships.
Among his many interests, Dr. Ewigleben was a scratch golfer, an avid sailboat racer, and a pilot.
Outspoken and direct, Dr. Ewigleben transformed Ferris during his 13 years as its chief administrative officer. During his tenure, the college made more than 40 curriculum changes, and established the Michigan College of Optometry, the state's only such program, the $6 million Manufacturing Resource and Production Center, and what is now known as the Ewigleben Sports Complex.
An internationalist, he was instrumental in forging relationships with universities throughout the world and building exchange programs between Ferris faculty and those in Belize, Columbia, and the Asian and African continents. Dr. Ewigleben grew up in Michigan, and worked as a machine operator in Lansing to pay for his education. He began his career as a mathematics and chemistry teacher in Croswell, Michigan. He later served as a principal and superintendent.
Dr. Ewigleben earned all three of his degrees from MSU: a bachelor's in biology (1952), a master's in educational administration (1956), and a Ph.D. in educational administration (1969).
A small family service will be held at a later date. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Robert L. Ewigleben endowment to support students in the Ferris Doctorate in Community College Leadership program.