Ernst F. Tonsing, Ph.D.

2003 Honorary Alumni

Biography as it appeared in 2003.

A man of diverse pursuits and talents, the Rev. Dr. Ernst F. Tonsing holds the disparate distinctions of being a blood relative to Amelia Earhart and one of the few Americans licensed by the Greek government to lecture with his tour groups at various archaeological sites in Greece. These unusual and unrelated facts give insight into one of CLU’s most revered professors whose interests and knowledge stretch from science and technology to music and history. Tonsing came to CLU in 1974 after earning a master’s degree in religious studies and a Ph.D. in early Christian literature and art from UCSB. A graduate of Midland Lutheran College in Fremont, Neb., Tonsing served in the U.S. Navy and then enrolled at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley earning a master’s degree in theology. Tonsing worked as a pastor in Portland, Ore., for three years before joining a congregation in Santa Barbara.

The son of a Lutheran pastor and military chaplain, Dr. Tonsing learned as a youngster the rewards of service, travel and living in different locations. During his 29 years of teaching religion and Greek at CLU, he imprinted his love and curiosity for new places and cultures on his students, enhancing his coursework with trips to the Middle East, Europe, Scandinavia, and Central and South America.

Tonsing served as Chair of the Religion Department for more than eight years – a time of growth and change for CLU. His habit of bringing classes to his home with its veritable collection of items reflecting his travels, abounding interests and intellectual curiosity gave rise to a standing quip among students that a tour through Tonsing’s house is a learning experience well worth two credits.