Goshen College Alumni Awards – 1991

  • Orie J. Eigsti ’31
  • Charles W. Ainlay ’41
  • Owen Gingerich ’51
  • Dorothy Nelson Mc Farland ’44

Orie Eigsti is known internationally as the geneticist whose basic scientific research

resulted in the popular seedless watermelon. He also is known as one of the first specialty corn-hybrid scientists.

He graduated from Goshen College in 1931 with a degree in social sciences and four years later received the Ph.D. in botany and genetics from the University of Illinois. He taught at the college level for 35 years, including the University of Oklahoma, Northwestern University and Chicago State Teachers College (now Chicago State University).

His plant research spans 54 years, the most famous being a basic scientific discovery in 1937 that resulted in the development of the seedless watermelon. He was using the drug colchicine while working with onions and doubled the number of “plant parents.”

Further applications of this process led to intensive watermelon research and in 1954 he and his wife, Agnes Weaver Eigsti ’32, formed American Seedless Corp. In 1987, American Seedless joined with Sun World International, Inc., to form American Sun melon Corp., which currently markets the product.

Although retired from teaching since 1977, Orie is actively engaged in writing and practical genetics from his farm near Goshen. He and Agnes travel extensively. They attend College Mennonite Church. Their family includes sons Karl and Nicholas ’63 and three grandsons.

When Charles Ainlay ’41 was a high school student in Mishawaka, Ind., he caught the attention of his speech and debate teacher, Roy Umble, who encouraged him to consider attending Goshen College from which Umble had recently graduated. With the promise of a campus job and a scholarship, Charles enrolled in 1937.

The skills in debate and public speaking he had discovered in high school became more apparent at Goshen College where his leadership abilities were extensively called upon. In addition to his outstanding academic record, he was class president for four years and involved in many other extracurricular activities. In his sophomore year, he won the local, state and national peace oratorical contests.

After Goshen College, Charles received the master’s degree from American University and the degree of Juris Doctor from The University of Notre Dame School of Law. He has practiced in Goshen all his professional life in the firm of Yoder, Ainlay, Ulmer and Buckingham, though he is now retired.

He has been chair of the Goshen College President’s Advisory Board since its founding in 1960 and has served on civic boards throughout his career. He and Dorothy Breunlin Ainlay ’74 are active members of Trinity Lutheran Church, Goshen. They are the parents of Susan Anand, Ann Chebbo, and John ’72, Stephen ’73 and Charles Ainlay, Jr.

A long, varied career has kept Dorothy Nelson McFarland ’44 in touch with the global village. Her first experience in international life was in 1937 when she and her husband Dr. Chester Nelson went to China to serve as medical missionaries. With their young son, Eddie, they worked in a village so remote that it was a 10-day walk into the jungle from the nearest motor road.

Four years later, Chet drowned on his way to a leper village leaving Dorothy with their three young children. Shortly thereafter, she returned to the States with Edward, Carolyn and Dwight. Passing through war zones, they finally arrived in the States five weeks before the Pearl Harbor attack in December 1941.

Dorothy had received her nurses training at LaJunta School of Nursing but enrolled at Goshen College in the fall of 1942 to pursue a B.S. in nursing and was one of the first two nurses to be granted that degree by Goshen College. She was director of the Goshen Community Schools health service for the next 33 years, during which time she also taught public health nursing for two years at the college and earned a master’s degree from Case Western Reserve. In 1961 she married Bob McFarland and they shared 10 years together until his death in 1971.

In 1977, following her retirement from Goshen Community Schools, Dorothy was invited by a Kenyan church to work in its dispensary. During her five years in the rural community east of Nairobi she initiated an immunization program, delivered babies, trained health aides and assisted with the building of a health center.

Since returning to Goshen in 1982, Dorothy has maintained an active schedule as volunteer in church and community programs. She maintains regular contact with about 30 Kenyan friends. When she returned for a visit in July 1990 as a participant in the alumni tour, she was met by about a dozen friends bearing flowers to honor her.

In addition to her busy schedule, she cherishes visits from her children, 15 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. She is an ordained elder in the First Presbyterian Church, Goshen.

Owen Gingerich ‘51 has been part of the Goshen College family since childhood. His father, the late Melvin Gingerich, was professor of history for many years, and his mother, Verna Roth Gingerich ’29 lives in Goshen.

Owen graduated with a B.A. in chemistry, then went to Harvard University, receiving his M.A in 1953 and Ph.D. in 1961. He currently is professor of astronomy and the history of science at Harvard University. From 1955-58 he served as Director of the Observatory at the American University of Beirut. Much of the time since he has been a lecturer at Harvard, although he has taught at other universities in the U.S. and abroad.

He is one of the nation’s foremost astronomers and is a senior astronomer with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory at Harvard University. He has published hundreds of scientific articles and reviews and has edited, translated or written 19 books. His most recent book is Album of Science: The Physical Sciences in the Twentieth Century, published by Macmillans. He is preparing an anthology of his essays, The Great Copernicus Chase, with Cambridge University Press.

Honors bestowed on Owen include Phi Beta Kappa, Order of Merit Commander Class, People’s Republic of Poland (1981), Harvard Radcliffe Phi Beta Kappa Prize for Excellence in Teaching (1984) and the most unusual, Asteroid 2658 = 1980CK was named “Gingerich” by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Bureau.

His teaching and research have taken him and Miriam Sensenig Gingerich ’51 around the world. This summer they joined other observers in Baja to watch the total eclipse of the sun. They are members of the Mennonite Church of Boston. Their sons are Jonathan, Mark and Peter.