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Augustana remembers Philip Merklinger

Augustana remembers Philip Merklinger

Beloved professor will be dearly missed

Phillip Merklinger was a friend, father, husband, professor, and musician who spent thirty years at Augustana, touching the lives of countless students and leaving a permanent impact on the campus and community.

Born in Waterloo, Ontario on Dec. 29, 1954, Merklinger completed his Bachelor of Arts at Wilfrid Laurier University, his Master of Arts at Waterloo University, and his Ph.D. at the University of Ottawa. He moved to Camrose with his wife Margaret Holliston in 1986.

Merklinger’s Augustana career saw the transformation of the Camrose Lutheran College in 1986 and the merger with the University of Alberta in 2004. He was on several planning committees, and he helped shape the Chester Ronning centre as a member of the advisory board.

In his thirty years at Augustana, Merklinger touched the hearts of his students and his colleagues. Associate Professor Sandra Rein had the unique experience of being both a student and a colleague of Merklinger.

Rein described her first interaction with Merklinger. “This goes back a few years, but the first class I had with Dr. Phil was an introduction to philosophy.”

“He was again a mentor and colleague who was exemplary in every way,” said Rein. “Unlike the days when I was a student, as a new professor, I looked to Phil as an example of how to “be” a good professor and university citizen. How to be both constructive and critical.”

Merklinger was an avid music fan, showing a preference for the Rolling Stones.  Merklinger not only listened to rock n’ roll, but he also played in a faculty band for Faculty Follies from 1991 until his passing.

William Hackborn, mathematics and computing professor, described the creation of the Faculty Follies band.

“We had a disagreement. I was trying to tell him about a problem that I had, and he swept it off. But afterwards—this was around Christmas time, I sent him a letter about it, and then we got together in January [1991], and he apologized,” said Hackborn.

“Then he said, ‘I think we should start a band, like a formal band’…but we didn’t start the band right away because I was going on sabbatical the next year,” said Hackborn. “About a year later we started it.”

Associate Professor of Music, Chair of Fine Arts and Humanities, Alexander Carpenter said that Merklinger’s  personality shone through his music. “He was all over the place, and at the same time he was right there, always Phil.”

“When he was playing, everything was humming and crackling, and at the same time you had all this noisy kind of gear and a messy arrangement of things,” Carpenter said. “He was also very grounded, and very much there. He loved music so much, and it was so much fun playing with him.”

TK Mah, a fourth-year chemistry student, explained what made him different to other professors.  “He took the time to do one on one with the students and gave them advice based on what they were planning to do career wise,” said Mah.

Associate Dean and Philosophy Professor, Janet Wesselius described Phil as “a fundamentally decent human being…he cared about other people as much as he cared about himself.”

The thoughts and prayers of the Augustana community are with the Merklinger family and the people who were close to him. Merklinger will be dearly missed, though his thirty-year impact at Augustana and legacy will carry on.


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