Dr. Vernon Ervin Weckwerth, 89, professor emeritus of the University of Minnesota, and a longtime resident of the Como Park neighborhood and of 1666 Coffman Senior Condos, died Feb. 25, 2021.
In six of the eight years Vernon attended elementary school in Colorado and Minnesota, he was the only child in his class. It was the Depression, few children were born, and many didn’t have the luxury of attending school. In high school, he was captain of the football team and won state superior speaking awards for several years, foreshadowing the lectures he would give as a professor.
Vernon was a lay reader at Como Park Lutheran Church, a church he joined in 1955 and which he continued to attend and support throughout his life. Vernon graduated from the University of Minnesota with bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and ultimately a doctorate in biostatistics.
After graduating from U of M, he worked for the American Hospital Association (AHA) in Chicago before returning to the U of M as a professor of hospital administration in the School of Public Health, where he taught and advised graduate students in master’s and doctoral programs.
In 1969, Vernon developed the Independent Study Program to serve rural populations. It was an off-site learning program that was an early example of remote learning opportunities common today. The program also appealed to executives already running hospitals around the world and allowed them to continue working while completing their master’s degrees.
From 1969 to 2011, more than 3,000 healthcare executives enrolled in ISP. They ran hospitals providing public healthcare to millions of people in 45 countries around the world, including places like Hong Kong and Bahrain.
Even as he led ISP, Weckwerth also taught statistics to students in six U of M colleges: Nursing, Medical, Pharmacy, Humphrey Public Affairs, Public Health, and Dentistry.
Beyond his work life, the things that mattered most to Vernon were his children, worldwide travel, education, biblical archeology and his Lutheran faith and church. He climbed Machu Pichu in 1977, well before it was a popular thing to do.
He is survived by his five children: Vicki Kennedy, Marsha (Lee) Olch, Debra (Vincent) Fedor, Amy Weckwerth and Mark Weckwerth; six grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and his former wife, Joanne, to whom he was married for 56 years. Interment will be at Lakewood Cemetery.
Please send memorials to Como Park Lutheran Church or to the Vernon E. Weckwerth Professorship in Healthcare Administration Leadership Fund 11702 at the University of Minnesota.