Merlene Ann Ogden

1929 -

Merlene Ogden, noted for five decades of meritorious service at Andrews University, started her career as an academy band director, instrumental music instructor, and English and physical education teacher. In 1955 she was hired by Emmanuel Missionary College, now Andrews University, to teach English, having completed a master's degree in English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, a year earlier, and would spend the rest of her career at AU.

Merlene was born in Lincoln, Nebraska, the older of two children and only daughter of Edwin Burman and Virginia M. Rees Ogden. Her father, a 1922 graduate of Union College, both taught and served as Academic Dean at UC for most of his career, becoming the longest serving staff member in the history of the college. Her mother, also a 1922 graduate of UC and daughter of an English teacher at the college, had taught at the academy level and following her marriage to Ogden gave many years of service to UC.

Both parents wanted their children to be involved in music, and when Merlene was in the fifth grade they bought her a violin and arranged for her to take lessons.  She continued studying on the violin until she graduated from UC; her teacher for many of those years was Carl Engel, chair of the music department. She played violin in the college orchestra all through her academy and college years, transferring to viola as needed while in college. She also learned to play the clarinet as a college student and played in the band as well.

While at UC, Merlene taught private music lessons to students in the elementary school and directed a small grade school band.  Following graduation with highest honors from UC in 1950, she taught English and physical education and directed the band as well as smaller instrumental ensembles at Platte Valley Academy in Nebraska from 1951 until 1955.

When she was hired to teach at EMC, she taught all of the women's PE classes in addition to three sections of English composition. In the next four years she expanded the offerings in women's PE and organized and directed a women's intramural sports program. During those years she also played viola in the college orchestra and in the Southwestern Michigan Symphony Orchestra, discontinuing participation only after becoming dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in the 1980s.

She took a doctoral study leave from 1960 to 1962 to complete classwork on a doctorate in English at the UNL. During those two years, EMC assumed its present name and began expanding offerings in English and other academic areas to conform to its new identity as a university. Following the awarding of her doctorate in 1964, she aggressively sought to expand offerings in the English department at AU.

Ogden organized and led the first European Study Tour in 1964, and then over the next thirty years led thirteen more tours, involving more than 600 students in those trips. Subsequent tours organized for alumni and adults raised the total to over a thousand participants.  In 1969, she assumed directorship of the honors program, which had been started in 1966 by Paul Hamel, music department chair. She continued his work, presiding over the program’s growth and development for the next quarter-century.

She became assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in 1977 and four years later was chosen dean, a position she held for the next decade. In 1991, she became dean of Affiliation and Extension Programs, a responsibility that led to extensive international travel.

In her years at AU and in her many roles at the school, Ogden became known for her inspired teaching, organizational ability, and innovative and invigorating leadership. Although she retired in 2004, she continues to encourage travel abroad through Ogden Tours, offering at least two tours a year.


Sources: Information provided by Merlene Ogden, 31 December 2012; 1930 and 1940 Federal Census Records; Lake Union Herald, 12 July 1955, 8; Delmer L. Davis, “A Career of Service and Leadership,” AU Focus, Winter 2008, 14-17; Meredith Jones Gray, “A Commitment to Excellence,” Focus, Winter 2008, 20-21; Everett Dick, Union, College of the Golden Cords, 1967, 376, 396.