Jeff Ehlrich: Park University's Best 7

Parkville Resident Conquers His Heart Issue

Imagine taking control of a 140-year-old renowned college shortly after heart surgery. A heart issue flared up just weeks before Dr. Jeff Ehrlich was appointed interim president by Park University’s Board of Trustees. Thankfully, this story has a happy ending.

Ehrlich served on the faculty as Faculty Senate president and associate dean of Park University, located in Parkville. His qualifications to serve as interim president of this historic college were second to none, except for an unknown health issue. The professor was shocked when a checkup discovered his condition after living a life of healthy diets and strenuous exercise. A serious hereditary heart issue caught up with Ehrlich at this important time of his life.

“My family doctor thought I should have a heart scan during my physical,” Ehrlich says. “The scan prompted a cardiologist visit. He acknowledged my healthy living style but found a serious heart issue that required a quadruple bypass.”

The operation was successful and Ehrlich returned to work in ten days, was running in five to six weeks and riding his bike long distances two months later. His former healthy lifestyle, with a little help from his friends, likely cut a difficult recovery time in half.

“I believe that a positive attitude was my first aid in coming back,” Ehrlich says. “I was very involved in yoga before and after my operation. Wendy at Om Prana Studio in Parkville taught me how to relax and breathe correctly. My wife, Donna, used aromatherapy, different kinds of oils that helped me breathe and relax. I think yoga, the aromatherapy and the medication sessions brought me back very quickly. I have no doubt that yoga practice was highly beneficial to my recovery. I have continued to do a lot of cardio work, including on my bike until it got too dark to ride, after work. So now Donna and I walk three to four miles each evening.”

Good heath is a requirement of Ehrlich’s demanding job. His average day starts at 7:30 a.m. and ends between 5 and 8 p.m. He attends a lot of meetings and constantly deals with hundreds of different college issues, plus manages 42 campus centers nationwide, including military academic sites from coast to coast and online programs. Today, plans are being made for several construction projects.

“Park University is going through some significant growth,” Ehrlich says. “We are doing additional building and remodeling. We are moving our library back to the old Carnegie Library on our campus, a library built with money donated by Scottish-American businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. We just added a new academic education center in the underground cave section that will be the nursing and health care school.”

Enrollment is part of the job that requires a lot of planning. Many universities’ enrollments are down and Park University is no exception. Many from the international community attend Park, including students from approximately 75 countries.

“Enrollment means money for the University,” Ehrlich says. “Being a private, independent university means we don’t get federal funding.  So we are reliant on student tuition to drive our revenue. How to increase enrollment is probably one of the problems that keeps me up at night, but we have to increase it in the right way that is valuable to our students. That is a delicate balance to keep that rhythm going to put all the numbers together to equal the right product.”

Ehrlich has been proud to help uphold Park University’s heritage. Colonel Park dictated 140 years ago that students needed a school where there will be no judgement for race or ethnicity. This once caused a community stir when Japanese students attended Park in the 1940s after World War II. People actually stormed the campus and backed down when the student body blocked them from reaching the Japanese students.

“I hope we never lose sight of educating all students who deserve an education,” Ehrlich says. “I hope we are never too good for anyone, including international students. I am extremely proud of Park University for maintaining these standards. It’s important that we invite back students that attended classes and were not able to finish. Hopefully I put the pride back in being from Park University for employees, graduates, students and anyone involved. My wife and I tried hard to redevelop relationships across campus. I get chest bumps and the secret handshake from my students. I believe in making the students part of this university. Without the students we are nothing.”

Park University has always been a great school with notable leaders. Ehrlich has proven to be one of the best!