Marcia & Steve Ehlers
X Marks the Spot: Marcia and Steve Ehlers Establish the Ehlers Foreman Memorial Scholarship to Support Geosciences Students
One of the most important tools humanity has ever invented is maps. Maps and cartography paint a picture of our world and have helped guide explorers, traders, travelers, and policy makers for centuries. Most of us have grown accustomed to having maps and information available at our fingertips, but have you ever wondered how those maps are made and who makes them?
Marcia Ehlers attending commencement at IU Southeast in 1978.
A Chance Encounter Leads to a New Career Path
In 1979, Marcia (Foreman) Ehlers (B.S. ’78, Education) wanted to broaden her career options and was interested in using her degree to become a librarian. At that time there was a surplus of teachers going into library science and job prospects were slim. While working at a doctor’s office, she struck up a conversation with a patient who suggested that Marcia would be an ideal candidate for the Department of Defense’s (DoD) cartography agency. She was able to parlay her affinity for travel and history into a career as a cartographer that spanned 37+ years at the DoD Louisville and St. Louis offices. Marcia produced maps for the U.S. Military for locations around the world, supervised the creation of aviation maps for military pilots, as well as the production of various geospatial products for intelligence agencies and homeland security.
“When I first started, everything was made by hand with paper or mylar on a drafting table,” said Marcia. “Computers and GPS changed everything. Now what used to take maybe a year can be created in a matter of hours. I have since retired but I feel like my education at IU Southeast prepared me very well for my career. I had a concentration in social studies which was very beneficial to me especially when I progressed to more managerial or supervisory roles. You had to learn to deal with all kinds of people and different, diverse ideas and my education provided me with lots of opportunities to excel in my career.”
Marcia and Steve Ehlers in Paris.
Marcia’s job took her all over the globe to eight countries and fueled a life-long passion for traveling. Steve Ehlers (B.S. ’92, Chemistry) has been Marcia’s travel partner and husband for 43 years.
“A big benefit to her job was the fact that I got to tag along,” said Steve. “Her work has always been impressive to me. There were times she couldn’t really talk to me about the work she was doing because a lot of it was top secret, high security information. I never realized, and I am sure most of us don’t think about it much, just how much we rely on maps and how important they are. For instance, when she was working on aviation maps or flip charts that pilots use, those are renewed every 28 days for every airport. Prior to her working at the agency, they also mapped the moon for NASA, all of this is very fascinating.”
IU Southeast Education Valuable to the Ehlers
Steve attended IU Southeast later in his career after a Jeffersonville, Indiana chemical plant he was working at closed. He took the opportunity to advance his knowledge and keep pace with job requirements.
Marcia attended IU Southeast right after she graduated from Corydon Central High School. She recalled that many of her favorite classes were taught by history professor, Gerald Haffner, Ph.D. However, one of her biggest life lessons occurred during a political science class.
“I got a ‘B’ in that class because I was afraid to speak up,” said Marcia. “My class participation grade pulled the overall grade down. I just didn’t feel comfortable speaking in front of a class that was mostly men. This experience helped me realize that I needed to get out of my shell. When I went to work at the DoD, it was mostly men and I had to speak up and be more forceful in my presentations. That class experience definitely helped me.”
Marcia Ehlers later in her career.
Creating a Map for Success—The Ehlers Foreman Memorial Scholarship
Both Marcia and Steve wanted to create a scholarship in memory of their parents – the Ehlers and the Foreman families—while providing support to a new generation of IU Southeast geosciences students.
“We are both appreciative of the education we received,” said Steve. “Education is especially important for creating a better world, better citizens. We both think that a scholarship fund is really the most direct way to help those who need it.”
“I worked all throughout college at a doctor’s office,” said Marcia. “They were very supportive of my education and were flexible with my hours and showed a lot of compassion towards me. This really made me want to do that for others. It is our hope that this scholarship can provide a little financial relief to students and give them one less thing to worry about.”
The Ehlers Foreman Memorial Scholarship is a renewable scholarship for four years, awarded to students studying geosciences, data science or informatics with a preference given to students from Harrison County.