Washington High School
Massillon, Ohio

A Remembrance by John Burton

Harold D. Germer died on April 7, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida at the Baptist Medical Center as a result of complications from lung cancer. He is survived by his wife, Laura; their son and daughter-in-law, Paul and Jenifer Germer; their son and daughter-in-law, John Germer and Frances Prince; and their daughter, son-in-law, and grandson, Beth, Mike, and Cole Hottel.

Harold had a distinguished career. He graduate from Denison University in 1957, attended Andover Newton Theological School in Newton Center, Massachusetts, served as an Assistant in the Memorial Church at Harvard University while he did graduate study in Theology at Harvard, and received an honorary doctorate from Alderson-Broaddus College in Philippi, West Virginia in 1988.  He joined the faculty of Ottawa University in Kansas in 1969 as an Assistant Professor of Religion.  He then served as University Dean and founding Dean of the Phoenix Center (now the Phoenix Campus) of Ottawa University), which is recognized as a pioneering transformation of a small liberal arts college into a multi-location provider of quality higher education for adults.  During the 1980s, Harold was Director of Collegiate Educational Services for the American Baptist Association of Colleges and Universities.  Harold was chosen as Vice President of Ottawa University in 1990, and then served as President of the University from 1992-2000. During his tenure as President, Ottawa University renovated several campus buildings, constructed a new residence hall, and established additional off-campus sites, including Milwaukee, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Subsequent to his retirement, Harold spent six months at Oxford University in England conducting research on the Baptist influence on American churches.

Harold, or Hal as he was known to his friends and family, had a long connection with Massillon. He was born in 1936 in Youngstown, Ohio, where his father was an America Baptist pastor, and moved to the Massillon area when his father became a minister in Newman. Hal attended Lorin Andrews Junior High and Washington High School, where he graduated in 1953. He was a three-year member of National Thespians (an organization for drama students), a junior year inductee into the National Honor Society, and the Head Photographer for the Massillonian (the WHS Yearbook) in his senior year.

Hal joined a cadre of Tiger Town Buddies (TT Buddies) while in high school, which consisted of David Shaffer (Shah), Walter Gundel (Walt), and John Burton. The 1953 Massillonian includes a picture of Hal, John, and Walt (plus classmates Dick Paulson and George Palmer) drinking a non-alcoholic toast to Dwight Eisenhower on the night of his election plus a picture taken by Hal of John delivering the “bad election news” to WHS teacher Paul Hildebrand.

One of the main activities of the TT Buddies during high school and college was playing bridge and encouraging one another to greater achievements. Perhaps a low point was the weekend in 1953 when Shah came from Capital University and John came from Case Institute of Technology to Granville to watch the Case Denison football game. Not counting the Denison non-marching band, the three TT Buddies constituted more than half of the game attendees.

As life progressed, so did the relationships among the TT Buddies. Hal and Laura were married in 1959. At their wedding, John met Janet and they were married in 1960. Thereafter, John and Janet attended the weddings of David and of Walter. Through the years, the TT Buddies celebrated the births and accomplishments of their children and grandchildren.

John Burton, Walter Gundel, Harold "Hal" Germer

The pinnacle of the TT Buddies’ companionship was the 60 anniversary of their WHS graduation, which occurred in 2013. Hal, Walt, and John’s drove from New Jersey to Massillon, where Dave joined them. [The picture shows John, Walt, and Hal from left to right as they mustered for departure from New Jersey]. At the class reunion, the Buddies reveled in great memories, rejoiced in their activities of the moment, and ruminated about the future. The TT Buddies survivors now share in the grief of the loss of Hal, who was a scholar and academic leader in his professional life, and to the TT Buddies was a great friend with a sense of humor who also had the ability to counsel on professional and personal matters, to commiserate on life’s setbacks, and to provide a model for a life well-spent. Adieu, old friend.

Harold’s ashes will be scattered at the Green Lake Conference Center in Wisconsin, where Hal and Laura met. Memorial gifts should be designated for the Hal Germer Memorial Fund at Ottawa University, 1001 S. Cedar Street, Ottawa, KS 66067. Condolences can be sent to Laura Germer at P.O. Box 15837, Amelia Island, Fermandina Beach, FL 32035.

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