Laurens Vedder Ackerman, MD, PhD, age 84, passed away on Friday, December 30th in Madison, WI. He was born on January 26th, 1938 in Pasadena, CA, the son of John Bevier Ackerman and Virginia Svarz. As his father was a major general in the Air Force, Laurens moved around a lot as a small child. After his parents divorced, his mother remarried Dr. Max Samter when Laurens was 10-years-old. To Laurens’ great delight, the family bought a home in Oak Park, IL. This was the first time Laurens truly felt rooted, and the Chicago area remained his home for the majority of his life. After briefly attending Brown, he returned to Illinois to complete his undergraduate degree at the University of Chicago where he also obtained his MD. Once when asked why he chose a medical career he put it simply, “I wanted to be around people and do science.” Far ahead of his time, he went on to obtain a PhD from University of Illinois with the intention of “finding a way to incorporate computers into medicine.” He then went on to became a major in the Air Force and led medical research. This was followed by the position of assistant professor in the bioengineering program at Rush University in Chicago. His love of engineering also extended into his personal life, where he journeyed as a pilot and rode his motorcycle around the country (and beyond). Laurens’ life changed dramatically when he was interviewed by the American Medical Association for a story about his medical research. The interviewer was Monika Franzen. He fell in love with her and they married in 1974. Monika came with two wonderful children, Alex and Marcus. Soon after their marriage, they had a son, Sean. Now with a family to support, Laurens shifted his focus from research to clinical medicine. He started his residency in radiology then eventually began working at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, MI. During most of his time at Henry Ford, he and his family lived in Wilmette, IL. Laurens cleverly used this opportunity as an excuse to buy a plane to commute weekly across Lake Michigan. He absolutely loved flying his airplane. The call of Chicago was eventually too strong though, and Laurens returned to Illinois to finish his career in medicine at Rush. During his retirement Laurens and family spent countless happy days at their family summer home in Montana, while always coming back to their house in Wilmette for at least half of each year. After Monika suddenly and unexpectedly died in 2018, Laurens moved to Madison, WI to be closer to his son, Sean. Though failing in health during this time, Laurens demonstrated wild optimism, profound resilience, an incredibly sharp mind, and a sense of humor until the very end. During these final years he was also able to spend a lot of time with family. When his 8-year-old granddaughter Amelia was asked to describe her favorite memory of her grandfather she said, “Seeing him smile when we gave him hugs.” He was loved until the end.
Laurens is survived by his children Marcus (Theresa Waldrop) Kabel, Alexandria Kabel, and Dr. Sean (Dr. Elizabeth Zeeck) Ackerman; grandchildren Lillian Kabel, Michael, Caroline, John, and Katie Kurzydlo, and Amelia and Otis Ackerman; sister Dr. Virginia C. Barry; and brother Allan Ackerman. He is preceded in death by his sister Dr. Emily Gottlieb and his wife Dr. Monika Franzen.
A private memorial service will be held. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to The Nature Conservancy.
We invite you to share your memories here on Lauren's tribute wall.
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