John Ehrenberg

John Ehrenberg, age 74, passed away at home on Sept. 27, 2018, after a short but robust struggle with pancreatic cancer. 

John was born in Spokane, worked most of his adult life in Seattle, and returned to eastern Washington to live part-time in 2001. Intending to retire, he rebuilt a cabin in the Methow Valley where he enjoyed skiing and hiking but, alas, never got around to retiring.

John liked to sail, had a keen and grateful appreciation of the Methow Valley Chamber Music Festival, was an avid traveler for business and pleasure and a brilliant finish carpenter.

He loved his friends and nieces and nephews who were a steadfast support for him during his illness. He was a devoted and loving husband, father and grandfather to his wife of 51 years, Kathleen, his daughter Shannon, his son David, and his granddaughter Riley. John was a happy man. He led a good life.

Beginning at the University of Washington in the 1970s and continuing over the past 45 years, Dr. Ehrenberg did seminal work for the advancement of fisheries acoustic research. In 2016 he was awarded the IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society (OES) Distinguished Technical Achievement Award for the invention of the dual beam and split-beam scientific echo sounders and contributions to the use of miniature acoustic tags in fisheries and predation research.

John received his PhD in electrical engineering from the University of Washington in 1973, his MS in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1968, and his BS in electrical engineering from Seattle University in 1966. From 1973 to 1983, Dr. Ehrenberg was a principal engineer at the University of Washington Applied Physics Research Lab, went on to become a research professor in Electrical Engineering at the UW, and, until the present, was an affiliate faculty member. Dr. Ehrenberg’s students and younger colleagues continue to do stellar research in echo statistics.

From 1989 to 2007, Dr. Ehrenberg was director and then acting vice president of information for Electronics and Avionics Technology for Boeing Phantom Works. He directed research and development in advanced modulation and coding techniques for digital communications systems, adaptive processing algorithms, and custom architectures for high-speed signal processing. John was impressed by and grateful for the brilliance of the engineers and support staff he worked with at Boeing.   

In 1989, Ehrenberg was brought on by the founding partners of the hydroacoustic consulting firm Hydroacoustic Technology Inc. to develop an engineering and manufacturing division.  From 2007 until 2016 John Ehrenberg was president of HTI as they pioneered new techniques in fish assessment throughout the Pacific Northwest and the world. John pioneered chirp signal processing and matched filter technology in the design of off-the-shelf echo sounders available from HTI since 1992. The company provided an opportunity for many young engineers and fisheries biologists to do cutting-edge work in the protection of fishery resources and the environment. From 2016 until the present, Dr. Ehrenberg has been chief scientist at HTI-Vemco USA.

John, the grandson of Swedish immigrants who came here as teenagers, worked all his adult life to try and ensure that everyone had the same opportunities his family did. In the 1960s he joined the already decades-long struggle for open housing in Seattle and in the 1970s he joined the campaign against Initiative 13 — marching in the first AIDS Walk in 1986 — and continuing that struggle for the rest of his life. Most recently he protested the inhumane treatment of immigrant children and for the protection of civil rights of his Muslim students and their families. 

At John’s request, there will not be a funeral. In early June a celebration of John’s life will be held in the Methow Valley. If you would like to make a gift in John’s memory, you may contribute to the Methow Valley Chamber Music Festival, P.O. Box 249, Winthrop, WA 98862.

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” — T. S. Elliott