James Ahler obituary.

In Our Prayers: Professor James Ahler

James Gerhard Ahler, a longtime assistant professor of sociology at St. Thomas, died peacefully at 86 years of age on March 15, 2024.

Ahler was born and raised in Burlington, Wisconsin. After high school he enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he was trained as a simultaneous German interpreter. Ahler earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees in sociology from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and accepted a position teaching sociology at the then College of St. Thomas in 1967.

During his career at St. Thomas, Ahler was proud of his time as chair of the Sociology Department. He was also involved in the founding of the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs (HECUA), an organization of liberal arts colleges, universities and associations dedicated to education for social justice. Ahler had a knack for recognizing the talents of others and steering them to areas where they would shine. He retired from St. Thomas in 2000.

Ahler was a friend and mentor to many during his time at St. Thomas, including to Professor Emeritus and former Chair of Sociology, Dr. Peter Parilla, who shared the following with the Newsroom:

Jim was the consummate social scientist. He realized that the ability of sociologists to contribute to our knowledge of the world depended on the quality and rigor of their research. For this reason, Jim led the movement to ensure that students majoring in the department would develop an understanding of how sociologists collected and analyzed data and the ethical issues involved in doing so. He created and regularly taught a two-course sequence on research methods and data analysis. Students in the sequence not only learned about social research, they also acquired marketable skills. Shortly after Jim retired, the department created an annual award to be given to the student who most excelled in the study of methods and statistics. It is named The James Ahler Award. It is a tangible reminder of his lasting impact.   

Mass of Christian Burial is scheduled for Friday, April 5, at 10:30 a.m. at Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church, 1938 Stanford Ave., St. Paul. Visitation from 9:30–10:30 a.m., luncheon to follow.