Donald Kerlee passed away peacefully at home on December 7 at Warm Beach, Wa. Ivy, his loving wife of 62 years, was at his side. He left behind a strong legacy of service to Science, Education, his family, and his church.
Don was born on Dec. 22, 1926 in Ryderwood, Washington. His youth was not always easy during the depression years as he learned early the discipline of hard work and study, sometimes laboring in the fields to help support his family. An early interest in music, radio, and engineering led to a job while in High School in Portland, Ore. and eventually to Merchant Marine positions as a Radio Officer in the Pacific during World War II. He attended Seattle Pacific College (now University) and entered the University of Washington, earning an MS in Mathematics and a PhD in Physics. His thesis and ongoing work involved key areas of Physics, helping to further the understanding of the structure of atomic nuclei.
Despite opportunities in research and industry, he determined to devote himself to education and returned to Seattle Pacific to teach, conduct research with faculty and students, and build a physics department. In 1963-64 he spent a year doing research using the new Linear Accelerator at the University of Manchester, in Manchester, England. He eventually moved into general administration. Five years at a sister school, Roberts Wesleyan College in North Chili, N.Y. culminated in a year as interim President. Returning to Seattle Pacific, he oversaw field campuses, taught computer science, and developed a graduate Information Systems Management program. His sense of mission and devotion to sharing with others led to five summers teaching ESL in Bejing, China, with Ivy.
He maintained a deep love of the outdoors, taking his family on many trips to Whidbey Island and the Cascade Mountains, gently admonishing his children to "Go out and make the world a better place to live in". A member of the Portland Youth Symphony while in high school, he played his beloved cello until his last years.
In addition to Ivy, Don is survived by his aunts Ruby Bower and Sue Lewis, brother Clarence of Seattle, sister Helen Nuffer of Troutdale, Or., cousin JoAnne Walston, children Daniel Kerlee, Melinda(Lynn) Luck, David Kerlee, Cindi Reed, Lucy Chen and Howard Hao, fifteen grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
A Memorial service will be held at 1:00 pm on Dec 27 at Warm Beach Free Methodist Church, Stanwood, WA. Memorials may be directed to the Donald Kerlee Scholarship in Physics at Seattle Pacific University, or the Donald Kerlee Scholarship for graduate Engineering at Roberts Wesleyan College, North Chili, NY.
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Published in The Seattle Times on Dec. 20, 2012