Ray O. Werner

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Ray O. Werner
It is with great sadness, mixed with gratitude and appreciation for the wisdom he shared with his large community of students and friends, that we announce the death of Ray Orval Werner, aged 95, of Colorado Springs. A member of the Colorado College faculty for four decades, Ray was a World War II veteran who received the Bronze Star for his service in Germany in 1945. He played an active role in the Colorado Springs community, serving as President of the Chamber of Commerce (1979) and Pikes Peak United Way (1970).
Above all, Ray was a legendary teacher, within and beyond the classroom. He thought of Economics not as a field for specialists but as a crucial part of every citizen's education, an approach that made him as popular with poets and geology majors as he was with students pursuing careers in business or banking. Deeply sympathetic to students and their individual needs, he demanded clear thinking and clear writing. He was instrumental in establishing writing as a crucial part of the Economics curriculum at CC, and countless students have practiced and passed on his guidelines, "The Ethics of Controversy," a model for vigorous, respectful public debate.
Following through on his beliefs, he played a central role in the unanimous adoption of CC's block plan despite the fact that he had initially voted against the change. An early adopter of computer technology, he is fondly remembered for creating "Care Bears Computer Survival Guide" to soothe, guide and amuse members of the college community less comfortable with the changing technological landscape. Colorado College honored his contributions by naming him the David and Lucile Packard Professor and by bestowing the Gresham Riley Award for making a significant difference through service and commitment in 2001. In recognition of the life-changing impact of his teaching, a group of students and friends joined together to establish the Ray O. Werner Professorship for Exemplary Teaching in the Liberal Arts.
Sports played an important part in Ray's life. He was an avid fan of CC hockey, the Denver Broncos, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Colorado Rockies and Pittsburgh Pirates, and in the days before his passing he was thinking about his fantasy baseball drafts, Nebraska football recruiting, and the Bronco quarterback quandary. Although he grew up in rural Nebraska where he was a scrappy infielder on the baseball diamond, he fell in love with hockey immediately upon his arrival in Colorado. As long-time Faculty Athletic Representative at CC, he played a key role in the founding of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, was a charter member of the WCHA Hall of Fame, and received the league's Distinguished Service Award in 1986. He received the Joni Brandner Award for support of the CC hockey program and was inducted into the CC Sports Hall of Fame in 1997.
Ray was born in Edgar, Nebraska, on April 21, 1922, the son of Albert Werner and Nora Roth Werner. An only child growing up in near poverty, he developed a deep love of the prairie landscape and attended school in Clay County, graduating from Edgar High School.
A talented orator and debater, he won a scholarship to Hastings College. He completed a year of graduate study at the University of Tennessee but knowing he would be called up to serve in World War II, he returned to Nebraska and worked as a high school principal before being inducted into the Army.
His first assignment in the Army was at Fort Leavenworth, where he taught illiterate recruits, most of them African American, Native American and Latino, to read and write. The experience and friendships forged there instilled in him an abiding belief in the potential of people of all backgrounds and shaped his support of the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s and 1960s. He would act on that belief by playing a central role in the desegregation of CC's Beta Theta Pi fraternity whose first African American member, retired Judge Ray Jones, paid tribute to Ray as "a wonderful, heartfelt man." Describing the arc of his political involvement, Ray recently remarked, "Over the past 94 years, I've migrated from being politically a liberal to a conservative to a homeless independent."
The need for additional manpower in Europe resulted in a transfer to Camp Howze, where he trained for 12 weeks before shipping to Europe. As a member of the 6th Armored Division of the First Infantry Division, known as the Big Red One, he missed the Battle of the Bulge by three days. At the end of the fighting in Germany, he was with one of the first units to enter Buchenwald. When most of his unit returned to the United States, he was assigned to serve as a company clerk because of his fast, accurate typing. He felt a deep affinity with Radar O'Reilly from MASH.
After his graduate study at the University of Nebraska and the University of Illinois, Ray and his wife Donna Mae Hansen Werner, moved to Colorado Springs in 1948 when he accepted a position at CC. Taking correspondence courses and studying during several summers, he earned his Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska in 1960. Ray and Donna were members of the First Congregational Church, where Ray served as deacon. On campus, he coached debate and was co-founder of the Blue Key Honor Society. A firm believer in the connection between "Town and Gown," he quickly became active in the Colorado Springs community, helping establish the Masters of Arts in Teaching program that facilitated returning veterans entering the teaching profession and later evolved into a key element of the college's connection with schools throughout the state and region. He was a member of the board at Goodwill Industries from 1964-1972; and served on the city of Colorado Springs utilities advisory board and the commission that reviewed the city charter from 1974-78.
Ray took particular pride in the year he spent studying at the Harvard University Law School as part of a program designed to strengthen the legal background of exemplary teachers at small colleges. He made practical use of that experience as editor of the Legal Developments section of the Journal of Marketing, and in his book Legal and Economic Regulation in Marketing: A Practitioner's Guide.
Living in the same house for over 60 years, Ray found time to explore a variety of interests. He enjoyed fishing and was an excellent chess player who once defeated Grandmaster Sammy Reshevsky in a group exhibition. He loved fantasy baseball and football, serving as founder and Commissioner of the Foolish Fantasy Football League for 30 years through the 2017 season.
Ray is survived by sons Brian and his wife Tina Del Ponte of Centennial, CO; Blake and his wife Ellen E. of Broken Arrow, OK; and Craig and his wife Leslee Nelson, of Madison WI; grandchildren Shelby Thayne and her husband Jeff of Lacey, WA; Chelsea Werner of Baton Rouge, LA; Taryn Werner of Telluride, CO; Kiel Werner and his wife Samantha of Jenks, OK; Shannon Werner of Denver; Riah Werner and her husband Bill Flexner of Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, Africa; Kaylee Werner of Madison, WI and Lewis Del Ponte and his wife Becky of Centennial, CO. His greatgrandchildren are Forrest Ray and Penelope Mae Thayne of Lacey, WA; Adelia Ray and Annabelle Mae Werner of Jenks, OK and Makenna, Avery and Luke Del Ponte of Centennial, CO. During the later years of his life, he received friendship and support from Arlene Wyman, Jim and Diana Wyman; and Kelly and Mario Pacheco, all of Colorado Springs.
In lieu of flowers, gifts can be made in Ray's memory to the Ray O. Werner Professorship in Exemplary Teaching in Liberal Arts. Gifts can be made on line at www.coloradocollege.edu/give or mailed to Colorado College, P.O. Box 1117, Colorado Springs, CO, 80901. Please reference the Werner Professorship with your gift.
A memorial service will be held to celebrate Ray's life on Saturday, April 21, 2018. The service will be held at 2 p.m. at Shove Chapel on the Colorado College campus, with a gathering to follow at Panino's, 604 N. Tejon, Colorado Springs.

Published in The Gazette from Mar. 25 to Apr. 8, 2018
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