Valdemar J. Christensen, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, Point Loma Nazarene University, and member of San Diego First Church of the Nazarene
The Christensen family announces the passing of our “patriarch”—Valdemar J. Christensen. Aged 92 years, he died at home under hospice care on Wednesday, October 17, 2018, at 4:20pm holding the hand of his wife of 69 years—Mildrene L. Christensen.
Val Christensen was born on May 15, 1926, in Calcutta India, the eldest of four children of Holiness missionary parents, Soren Valdemar Christensen (from Denmark) and Lydia Zook (of Swiss German descent). A child of the Great Depression, Val grew up in a rural Christian commune of sorts called the Hephzibah Faith Farm and Mission in Tabor, Iowa; and then in a house his father built near a Holiness Camp Meeting in Wichita, Kansas.
At 17, he left home by bus for college with a $10 bill in his pocket. He enrolled at Bethany-Peniel College but was drafted at 18 by the U.S. Army in 1944 and deployed to the Philippines and Japan during World War II. During his 18 months of service, he survived Boot Camp, became an expert rifleman, and passed a typing test to work at the 24th Division Headquarters. He achieved the rank of Master Sargent, became the head of a team of six master sergeants, and thus was the highest-ranking member of the 2,200 man Division– at 19 years of age.
After the war ended he returned to school and graduated from Bethany-Peniel College (now Southern Nazarene University) in 1948, and received his Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry in 1952 from the University of Kansas at Lawrence, with membership in Phi Beta Kappa—one of top national honor societies. But the real honor was lifelong marriage to Mildrene Hale on June 19, 1949.
After landing a job as Research Supervisor at The Dow Chemical Company in Freeport, Texas, he and Millie had three sons: Michael (1953), Jeffrey (1955) and Steven (1960). They bought their first house and made their home in Lake Jackson, Tx.
As head of his research team at Dow, Val was associated with the Company’s invention and production of saran wrap, and holds two patent’s for extracting magnesium from seawater. After working eight years as a research chemist, Val was recruited to teach Chemistry and head up the Science Division at Pasadena College in 1960.
During his 36 years, he served as Professor of Chemistry and Chair of the Science Division (1960-1977), Associate Dean of the College (1977-1989), and Academic Vice President of PLNU (1989-1996). As Dean, Val worked alongside President Jim Bond in their commitment to building a great Christian university. He recruited high-quality faculty members in the Arts and Sciences, created an outstanding pre-med program, and established, with his colleague Professor Victor Heasley and later Dr. Dale Shellhamer, Research Associates— which today has over 260 professional members (science majors, professors and alumni) who have received grants through the University to further their research in the natural sciences. Professors Heasley and Christensen also collaborated in writing a popular chemistry laboratory textbook for nursing students entitled, Chemistry and Life in the Laboratory: Experiments, published by Pearson, now in its 6th edition. Both he and Heasley have chemistry labs in the Science Center named after them.
As Associate Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs, he supported the creation of a new School of Nursing, facilitated funding for the Wesleyan Center for 21st Century Studies, and personally participated in the construction of Brown Chapel (by volunteering to serve as General Contractor for the campus auditorium and church sanctuary). During his lifetime he left a legacy gift to the University for student scholarships for science majors and a fund for building bridges between science and religion in the classroom.
A member of San Diego First Church of the Nazarene since 1973, Val was a loyal churchman who served as chairman of the church board, building committee, and sang in the men’s choir. He was treasurer of the Fantastics Sunday School class, which became Millie and Val’s community of dearest friends.
As Patriarch of the Christensen Family, Val toured his family through 48 States in a 22-foot motor home before his three sons went off to college. By the time the family visited the 49th State, Hawaii, together, there were some spouses in the mix. Once it came to Val’s attention that there was a 50th State to visit, and “16 souls” to take to Alaska, Val made a promise and spared no expense to take his entire family on a 10-day cruise to Alaska in 2008. During their retirement years, Val and Millie have traveled extensively in the world, sometimes with close friends, to dozens of countries and enviable locations, including the British Isles, Europe, Asia, and the Arctic Circle. And have passed on their love of adventure travel to their children and grandchildren.
Point Loma Nazarene University is a legacy school for the Christensen Family. Val invested in and now leaves behind his three sons and their families:
- Michael (Class of 1977); Rebecca Laird (1982, currently Professor in School of Theology and Christian Ministry); Rachel (2012); Megan (2015).
- Jeffrey (Class 1978); Mardie Caldwell Christensen; Andrew (and Whitney), Amber (2006) and Zach; Kevin (2009) and Alyc (2012).
- Steven (Class of 1983); Renee (currently University Cashier); Lauren (2015); Danielle (2017); Sarah (2019).
Great grandchildren are expected to attend in the future: Elka, Liv, Crew, Brielle, Kael, and Camille.
His grandchildren wrote and read him his legacy on his 92nd birthday, expressing gratitude for all the lessons Grandpa Val bestowed on them, including:
the importance of faith and family, tax avoidance philosophy, the true value of perseverance and boldness, the art of pomegranate jam and salsa making, and the science of growing tomatoes. We also express gratitude for his steady disposition, his mind that is always working on a puzzle, his wisdom, his good nature, his ability to find cheap gasoline, write anything and everything on a notecard, and to preside over 8 Coming of Age ceremonies. Lastly, we express gratitude for his model of how to be retired but still a full-time gardener, traveler, and investor and for the instructions in essential ingredients for cooking and life: sugar, Tabasco, patience, and good people to share it with.
On September 6, 2018, Val suffered two heart attacks and remained at Prebys Cardiovascular Institute for 10 days. He also was treated for end-stage renal failure at Scripps Hospitals and Carmel Mountain Rehabilitation Center for another 10 days. Declining invasive treatments, he opted for Home Care with Sojourn Hospice. A fabulous multidisciplinary team offered high quality comfort care for another 15 days. He hoped to hang on to life until November 2-3 in order to fly to Oklahoma to attend his 70th College Class Reunion at Southern Nazarene University in Bethany (where his army buddy and college roommate, Kenneth Armstrong, and dear friend Forrest Ladd, would meet him at the Alumni luncheon). He also hoped to make it to December 31, 2018, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of his engagement to his wife Millie. But all this was not to be.
Family members prayed this ancient Christian prayer of commendation on Wednesday, October 17, before and after he died:
“Depart O Christian soul out of this world.
Fly, fly into the loving hands of the One who made you.
May your rest be this day in peace, and your dwelling place in the Paradise of God.
In the Name of God, the Father Almighty who created you.
In the Name of Jesus Christ who redeemed you.
And in the Name of the Holy Spirit who sustained you. Amen.
In his final days, all family members had their moment to say goodbye, and he told each one how much he loved and appreciated them, and how he was so proud. “I can’t believe it!” he said about his family. “So blessed, so blessed.”
Arrangements have been made for a burial with military honors at the national veteran’s cemetery at Miramar (Val served as a Master Sargent in the U.S. Army in during WWII) on November 1.
The Point Loma Campus community, church members and friends are invited to join the Christensen family in a celebration of Val’s life on Friday, November 2 at 3:30pm in Brown Chapel with a reception following the service on Friendship Plaza.
Memorial gifts can be designated for the Val and Millie Christensen Science Scholarship at PLNU through the Office of Development.
Celebration of Life
- Date: November 2, 2018
- Time: 3:30pm
- Location: San Diego First Church of the Nazarene
- Address: 3901 Lomaland Drive San Diego CA 92106
- Directions: San Diego First Church of the Nazarene
Service to be held in the Brown Chapel with a reception following the service on Friendship Plaza.
- Date: November 1, 2018
- Time: 2:00pm
- Location: Miramar National Cemetery
- Address: 5795 Nobel Drive San Diego California 92122
- Directions: Miramar National Cemetery
Burial will be a family service held privately
David Ah Sing on November 04, 2018
Bonnie Wong on October 25, 2018
Mona Garcia Slagle on October 24, 2018
Forrest Ladd on October 23, 2018
Floyd & Thirl Johnson on October 23, 2018
Susan Armstrong on October 22, 2018
Michael Cater on October 22, 2018
Dick Arnold on October 22, 2018