Train Ride Forever Changes Course of Two OWU Students

George and Joan Kerns

For George and Joan Kerns, it all started 64 years ago on a train from New York City to Delaware, OH. When the couple met on this train ride to college, they could never have known that a lifetime of love-both for each other and Ohio Wesleyan-had begun.

Today, establishing a charitable gift annuity for OWU as members of the Tower Society, they look back on that day as one that set the course for their lives.

"There were a good number of OWU students on the trip over from New York," Joan says. "The mother of a girl, who would become my dear friend, was going around the train having all the students introduce themselves to one another. And that's where I met George."

Though George spent the first 12 years of his life living in southern France, his family lived in New Jersey at the time. Joan was from Long Island, and while her family expected her to attend college close to home, she was eager to go somewhere new.

Sometimes You Just Know
"The day I got off the train was the first day I had seen OWU, and I knew immediately I'd made the right decision," she says.

A long way from their east coast homes, George and Joan found their places at OWU. Though Joan says she took a few months on campus to "check out her options," the two began dating near the beginning of their freshman year.

College Sweethearts
George stayed busy a member of the OWU track team, and Joan fondly remembers days they spent studying together in Slocum Library. They were married just six months after their graduation from OWU, where George received his degree in engineering and Joan in political science. They moved together to Massachusetts where George was enrolled at MIT to continue his studies in engineering.

George's engineering career thrived after his time at MIT.

"We lived in upstate New York for five years while George worked for General Electric," Joan explains. "Then, we moved to Santa Barbara 50 years ago, and we've lived here ever since." While in California, George received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Ohio Wesleyan Part of Their Foundation
With all the places their lives have taken them, the Kerns are not quick to forget their Ohio Wesleyan roots.

"We are so pleased to be able to give to Ohio Wesleyan through the Tower Society," Joan says. "We know there are many people who would like to do so, and we are happy to be able to."

The couple has designated that their gifts go toward the neuroscience program at Ohio Wesleyan. "George has multiple sclerosis, so the study of neuroscience is important to us," she explains. "We know this money will help science students, pre-med students and many more."

When she thinks back through the years, and to this day, it is lifelong OWU relationships that stand out to Joan.

"We have so many great OWU connections here in California, and you might not expect that. All the little OWU connections make a big difference in life."

The Kerns celebrate these connections by planning their gifts to OWU. In Joan's words, "Things in life come full circle," and they are pleased to honor the place where they arrived by train so long ago with their generosity 60 years later.
-By Amanda Zechiel '09

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Contact Info


University Advancement Office
Mowry Alumni Center
61 S. Sandusky Street
Delaware, OH 43015
P 740-368-3078
F 740-368-3328


Jenny Batchelder, JD
Director of Gift Planning
P  740-368-3043
F  740-368-3328