Former chemistry professor dies at 89

Alison Rodriguez
Staff Writer

Long-time chemistry professor Dr. Ernest Ikenberry died in his home at Hillcrest retirement community on Oct. 30. He was 89.

Dr. Ikenberry first came to La Verne in 1956 to teach chemistry and was joined by Dr. Bob Neher in 1958, who joined the faculty to teach biology. They created what would be the foundation for the natural sciences division.

“He was an inspiring faculty that was able to build the chemistry department from scratch,” Ricardo Morales, assistant chemistry professor, said. “He was a passionate faculty about chemistry.”

Dr. Ikenberry taught until 1989 having served as natural sciences division chairman for 15 years and chemistry department chairman for 29 years.

Upon his retirement, he was named professor of chemistry emeritus.

“Ikenberry was atypical in our society,” Jay Jones, professor of biology, said. “Everyone nowadays is focused on climbing the ladder rather than caring for others. This individual was selfless and cared about you genuinely and he, along with the late George Arnold, is honestly what kept me here at La Verne.”

Dr. Ikenberry and his wife, Leona, were both members of the Veritas Society and have been loyal and faithful supporters of programs at La Verne including the Fasnacht Chair of Religion, Summer Service Program and Campus Ministry.

“Let us reflect on Dr. Ikenberry’s service to the University of La Verne and continue to be thankful for the positive effects they had on our campus,” President Devorah Lieberman said in a community announcement.

Dr. Ikenberry is known for bringing computers to ULV. He purchased his first computer, a Model One computer with memory 90 kilobytes and 1.2 megahertz, at Radio Shack, March 27, 1978.

He was also the first professor to teach a computer class at the University.

“We were both a bit of tech geeks,” Jones said. “Together he and I built and repaired a lot of the equipment used in the labs here on campus. He was the master of making do with almost nothing.”

He also had a diverse background; having grown up in China during World War II he had the opportunity to be exposed to different cultures at a young age.

After their return to the United States, Dr. Ikenberry and his family stayed in La Verne for about six months where he attended Damien High School.

In 1942, his family moved to Idaho, where his father was offered a job as a minister.

Dr. Ikenberry did not stay in Idaho but moved to Kansas, where he graduated from McPherson College in 1947. At McPherson, he also met his wife, Leona.

After he got his doctorate in chemistry from Kansas State University, he worked for about eight years for the Continental Oil Company before he returned to La Verne as an associate professor of chemistry in 1956.

“Ikenberry basically ran the chemistry department and made sure everything was up to date,” Jones said.

“His concern for the students and dedication to serving them in a very selfless way was remarkable. He tried to get them the best education they could get, and that’s something that is rare in today’s society,” he said.

A memorial service for Dr. Ikenberry is still being determined, more information will be forthcoming.

Dr. Ikenberry is survived by his wife.

Alison Rodriguez can be reached at

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