Rev. Dr. Marjean Potter Ehlers
Marjean Potter Ehlers (born Marjean Paula Potter) came into this world on February 13th, 1950, in Emmetsburg, Iowa to Paul and Irene Potter of Ruthven, Iowa. Greeting her at home was an older brother, Lynn, and later joined by a younger sister, DeeAnn. Her father, Paul, was an itinerate United Methodist Pastor so Marjean and her family found themselves moving every 4 to 5 years. Their first move was to West Union, Iowa, where Marjean attended elementary school. After 5 years, the family moved to Lakeview, Iowa and then to Alden, Iowa where Marjean finished elementary school and stayed through her sophomore year of high school. Following the summer of her sophomore year, the family moved again to Sioux Rapids, Iowa. Marjean would graduate in 1968 having been involved in many different activities including cheerleading, band, and choir. Although their first date was after graduation, it was in Sioux Rapids where she met the love of her life, Don Ehlers, as classmates in high school.
After her high school graduation, Marjean completed her first year of college at Morningside University in Sioux City, Iowa, and finished her associate’s degree at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge. She then transferred to Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Missouri, where she graduated with a bachelor's degree in both psychology and sociology. During her sophomore year, Marjean became forever connected with her now husband, Don. While growing closer and establishing the foundation of their incredible love story, Marjean and Don were married on September 23, 1972. Following Don’s graduation in March of 1973, they served as co-head teachers at the Perry Daycare Center. It was there that they discovered that they wanted a shared career. Together, they decided in the fall of 1974 to attend seminary at Pacific School of Religion. However, financial barriers led them back to Iowa where their search for a meaningful vocation continued. In January of 1975, they began a joint position as Associates in Ministry at the Wesley Foundation at the University of Northern Iowa. While there, the Reverend Bob Ellis served as a significant mentor to both Marjean and Don for over five years. During their time at the University of Northern Iowa, they also completed their Masters in counseling. In 1980, they successfully achieved their desired goal for a shared long-term career serving as co-directors of the Wesley Foundation at Northwest Missouri State University, a position they held for 35 years. Over the decades, they became impactful leaders in the United Methodist Church and campus ministry from the local level to the national stage.
Marjean’s career was filled with ongoing advancement and accomplishment. In 1986, she was consecrated as a diaconal minister in the Missouri West United Methodist Conference after completing the required coursework. Two years later, she became a licensed professional counselor. In April of 1996, the United Methodist General Conference approved a new order of ministry - the Order of Deacon. Marjean saw that as a real positive step for her internal calling to be ordained in the United Methodist Church. This opened the door for her to be able to officiate at weddings, complementing her devotion to young adults and her ministry in love and relationships. For Marjean, her ability to officiate at a wedding was a pinnacle of enjoyment for her. Although her ordination as Deacon was a major step, she found herself called to the meaning of sacramental ministry of both communion and baptism with her leadership in local churches and Wesley Foundation. In 2005, she achieved this dream to be ordained as Elder in the United Methodist Church. In addition to the credentialing in the church, Marjean furthered her accomplishments in academia as well. From 2001-2007, she completed her doctorate in educational leadership and policy analysis at the University of Missouri in Columbia. Following a wonderful and impactful career of over 35 years at Wesley Foundation, Marjean and Don retired from campus ministry in 2015.
In the midst of all of her career accomplishments, Marjean would most certainly say that her most meaningful role began even before the move to Maryville: her role as a parent. Don and Marjean became parents with the birth of their first son, Justis, while at the University of Northern Iowa in 1978. Then, shortly after moving to Missouri, their second son, Jesmin, was born in 1981. A little over 2 years later, Jacob was born to their family. Five and a half years later, Don and Marjean were able to complete their family circle by welcoming their only daughter, Julia in 1989. It was a dream come true for Marjean to become a mother and be able to parent with Don.
For Marjean, she was able to navigate the great challenges for achieving the perfect balance between her career and family. She and Don were able integrate their children seamlessly into their devotion to the Wesley Foundation. Their four children were constants at Wesley as it was truly a home away from home for their family. Together with Don, they were able to continue to do campus ministry while raising their precious family and extending themselves beyond the Wesley Foundation throughout their years.
As Marjean would reflect over the years, she would concede that the added blessings of a growing family stretched far beyond the rewards of work as her family expanded. Justis married Gina Prokes in July of 1998, Jesmin married Karen Simkins in May of 2008. Jacob married Lindsey Karr in May of 2014, and Julia married Kameron Chones in August of 2022. From those families, Justis and Gina provided her with grandchildren, Adelyn (14) and Cooper (11); Jesmin and Karen had Nolan (14), Caelyn (12) and Braden (8); and Jacob and LIndsey gave her Brinley (6) and Brooks (2). These people- both the adults and children - were truly the treasures of Marjean’s life that she held dear. She loved being with them; from reading, singing, drawing, and crafting - she would spend all the time that she could to share her life with them. She was the quintessential mother and grandmother you dream of having. In 2017 and 2019, Marjean and Don were blessed to be able to purchase townhomes both in Beachwood, Ohio and in Overland Park, Kansas to be able to share as much time as possible with their precious family.
In 1995, Marjean was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune condition called polymyositis with an associated risk of interstitial lung disease. In the midst of this jarring diagnosis, her eternal hope and optimism helped her face this condition with grace. For most of the nearly 30 years, only those closest to her would have even known the challenges she endured. Over the last few years, she and Don realized the importance of her proximity to highly specialized healthcare which led to them spending more time in the Cleveland area. This didn't change her perspective of wanting to be in both places and be with all of her children and grandchildren at all times. Although her health may have slowed her down, it never interfered with her spirit and life she brought into a room - and she always remained constantly in love.
On December 18th, 2023, as she was called to meet her Dear God and Creator, she was surrounded by her family, holding her hands, holding her close, and letting her know how much she was loved.
In recognition of her lifelong dedication to ministry for young adults at Northwest Missouri State University, a memorial scholarship in Marjean's name is being established.
Online gifts to support this scholarship can be given at http://nwmissouri.edu/giveonline . Please select "Other" as the designation and type in "Marjean Ehlers Memorial" in the provided space.
If contributing by mail, checks can be made out to the Northwest Foundation with Marjean Ehlers in the memo line and can be mailed to Northwest Foundation, 800 University Drive, Maryville, MO 64468.