Dr. Robert A. Oetjen '36 - 1987 A Award Recipient
Bio from 1987:
Dr. Robert A. Oetjen is a person whose career as a research scientist and whose Christian commitment have equally represented the best in the meaning of the name “Asburian.” Church leaders and physical scientists affirm this man’s sterling contributions to the cause of Christ and world peace through research in the physical sciences.
A native of Michigan, Dr.Oetjen came south to the Bluegrass in search of a college education. The yearbook remembers him as “a splendid student, a capable lab instructor (his senior year), and a true, practical Christian.” With a passion to understand God’s laws of physics, Dr. Oetjen completed both his Master of Science and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Michigan. After five years as a physicist at Texaco Research Labs, his career shifted to higher education.
During 24 years at Ohio State University, he moved in rank from faculty member to associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, to assistant director for research, and to assistant vice president for learning resources. His Dean at OSU, later to serve as president of Fairleigh Dickinson University, praises him as a “quiet administrator who got things done…he was straight-forward and honest.” Higher education later opened new doors for service as dean at the University of Akron. From that post, Malone College of Canton, Ohio, tapped him for the vice-presidency for academic affairs.
Dr. Oetjen touched not only great institutions of Ohio, but the people of Japan. As a Fulbright Professor, Osaka University secured his expertise to build an infra-red spectrometer, a five-ton instrument to study light refraction. He had already built such hardware on the campus of Ohio Statein Columbus.
In 1962 the American Science Foundation invited Dr. Oetjen to return to Japan as the chief scientist in residence at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. Working with the Japanese government, he implemented a United States-Japan Cooperative Science Program, the first of its kind. Throughout the Orient during this three year assignment, great universities and scientific associations received this Asburian as their guest lecturer.
With his career in research of light waves, physics served as a platform for his Christian witness. From Ohio to Japan, his passion to share Christ as the light of the world is clearly visible. Typically, with every family move, he sought serious involvement in a local church. Without the skills of the language in Japan, his family attended a newly organized Japanese church where he soon became the Bible teacher of the college students. A campaign to raise funds to complete the church captured his vision and energy.
Back in Ohio after his second assignment to Japan, his call to build up the Japanese church never wavered. Across the Ohio-East Conference of the United Methodist Church, Dr. Oetjen is known for his campaign to strengthen the church around the world. Today, a bronze plaque in the Shukugawa Church gives testimony of what one man has accomplished for Japanese Christians.
Chemist, physicist, government assistant, professor, and college administrator have a deeper meaning in this case because Dr. Robert A. Oetjen has been, first of all, an ambassador for God’s Kingdom. We would like to think his experience as lab instructor at Asbury College opened the door on this magnanimous career.
We know for sure God blessed him at Asbury with Dorothy Myers, his college classmate of 1936, as his bride and companion for now over a half-century.