In Memoriam: Donald Yerg

Don Yerg
Don Yerg

Donald G. Yerg, 86, died July 23 in Minneapolis. He was born in Lewistown, Pa., and received a PhD in Physics/Meteorology from Pennsylvania State University. He joined the faculty of Michigan Tech in 1955, after several years of conducting research and teaching at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and in Puerto Rico.

At Michigan Tech, he taught graduate and undergraduate courses in the physics department and was the University’s first Dean of Graduate Studies (now the Graduate School), helping to build Tech’s master’s and doctoral programs.

Professor emeritus Don Daavettila recalled working with Yerg as a graduate student before they became colleagues in the physics department.

“He was very helpful to us as students, always explaining what he was doing,” Daavettila said. “I enjoyed that. He was a fine person. He loved to talk physics, and he loved to talk politics, too.”

Yerg remained active in upper atmosphere research by publishing and presenting at various national scientific and academic conferences. For several years, he hosted a program on Michigan Tech’s radio station, WGGL, where he interviewed scientists on how their research impacted everyday life.

An avid reader of political, social and foreign journals, and historical works; a student of the Spanish language, the recorder and acoustic guitar; and a writer of progressive letters to the press–he was a man of inquisitive mind and critical thinking.

He was happiest on the shores of Lake Superior or on backwoods trails of the Keweenaw, whether it was sailing, hiking, biking or skiing. His ashes will be spread over Lake Superior in a family ceremony.

He is survived by wife, Mary Jane, children George, Mark, and Suzanne Yerg, and four grandchildren.

Posted August 25, 2011, in Tech Today.

Donald G. Yerg
Read more at the Mining Gazette.

Please feel free to leave comments on your experiences with Don Yerg.

One comment on “In Memoriam: Donald Yerg”

  1. I was one of Yerg’s sailing/XC skiing, hiking,& biking partners from 1979 until a few years before his death. His life off campus is probably not well known. Frequently, along with Prof. Gene Ortner, we skied trails from the Horoscope Rd. (outside of Tapiola) to Schlatter’s Lake, Smith Fisheries to Horseshoe Bay, & the hills of Oskar to Rabbit Bay. Yerg pored over U.S. Geological Survey maps to determine routes on logging and snowmobile trails. In 1984 he and I purchased the first mountain bikes in the Keweenaw (bright red Peugiots weighing over 35 lbs.) and biked the same trails we had skied. Wherever he went Yerg “lectured” on politics (progressive),the philosophy of science, and academia. He tackled any opposing views with astute, ethical, and devastating argument, willingly taking on people of power. This alienated many and eventually affected his career. But he could also disarm folks by quoting Scripture, singing (off-key) Lutheran hymns, and telling off-color jokes. He was a memorable character!

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