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ABC Labs’ 50th Anniversary Celebrated August 17, 2018

Posted by diannaobrien in ABC Labs, Eurofins, Events.
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A business making it to 50 years in the same location and market is due to one thing: the hard work of the people said an executive at Eurofins, the company that now owns ABC Labs.

Tim Oostdyk, Group Senior Vice President at Eurofins, made the comment at ABC Labs’ barbeque lunch celebration on Thursday, Aug. 9 at the company’s Discovery Ridge location.

At the event, he lauded ABC Labs founder the late Charles W. Gehrke for instilling the two guiding principles of the company: great science and a love for people.2018_08_09 ABC Labs 50th cake

The celebration included a cake marking the 50th anniversary of the company started in 1968.

Gehrke’s children were on hand for the celebration. Jon Gehrke is an orthopedic surgeon in Des Moines, Iowa, and Susan Gehrke Isaacson is an attorney and CPA in Minneapolis. Former board members and employees also attended.

Susan Isaacson and Jon Gehrke, the daughter and son of ABC Labs founder Charles W. Gehrke. They were on hand to celebrate ABC Lab's 50th anniversary on Aug. 9, 2018.

Jon Gehrke and Susan Isaacson, the children of ABC Labs founder Charles W. Gehrke. They were on hand to celebrate ABC Lab’s 50th anniversary on Aug. 9, 2018.

Oostdyk said the combination of people skills and scientific drive is crucial to the success in the scientific contract testing business which requires fulfilling the demands of customers and conducting challenging scientific research.

ABC Labs was bought out by  EAG Labs in 2015 and then purchased by Eurofins Scientific in 2017.

Back in the day

ABC Labs got its start in 1968 through those principles of science and people skills and the hard work of three people, Gehrke, Jim Ussary and David Stalling, two of Gehrke’s former graduate students.

Each man brought his own science and skills to the job.

For the first six months, the company operated out of a desk in Ussary’s home. His contribution to the firm’s development included his scientific problem solving and sales skills.

Stalling was a whiz at scientific instruments and literally helped build the first few buildings at ABC Labs out of materials recycled from his father’s work clearing away buildings for the creation of Interstate 70.

Gehkre said he raised funds to get the company off the ground, collecting $200,000 within six months, an amount which would be more than $1.4 million today.

From those origins, ABC Labs grew until it employed 300 people prior to its 2015 buyout by EAG Labs and the 2017 purchase by Eurofins.

A farmer to scientist story

The humble beginnings — and ups and downs — of this global firm are detailed in the book “From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks.” 

The biography of Gehrke describes his tough start and his ups and downs as well. He grew up in the tiny town of Canal Lewisville, Ohio, having to work in neighboring farm fields to help support his family. His ticket out of farming literally came from his oldest brother, who put him on a train to Ohio State University, telling him he wanted a better life than farming for his brother.

From there, his education and scientific career would propel Gehrke to head up a scientific team that analyzed the moon rocks from the NASA Apollo moon landings and found ABC Labs.

Learn More

To read more about the path Charles took from a small town in Ohio to founder of a scientific firm, the book, “From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks,” is available at the following Columbia locations:

Online:

  • Barnes & Noble,
  • amazon.com or
  • This website by mail for $20 plus tax and shipping.Buy Now Button

If you’d like to hear more about Charles, ABC Labs and the writing of this book, Dianna O’Brien is available for talks and presentations.

 

Melon Fields to Moon Rocks: Charles W. Gehrke biography January 15, 2018

Posted by diannaobrien in ABC Labs, Charles W. Gehrke General, Eurofins.
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“From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks” is a biography celebrating the life and accomplishments of Charles W. Gehrke, 1917-2009. The book was written through a collaboration between Charles and Dianna Borsi O’Brien prior to his death.

O’Brien is available for talks and presentations. You can contact her at dobrien387@gmail.com or by telephone at 573.424.5749.

The book was published in March 2017 and a signed copy can be purchased below. The book also is available in Columbia at Yellow Dog Bookshop, 8 S. Ninth St., the Columbia Mall bookstore Barnes & Noble and the bookstore at Boone County History and Culture Center at 3801 Ponderosa St.

You can get it electronically from Barnes & Noble, amazon.com. or buy a signed copy via this website for $20 plus tax and shipping.

You can also buy a signed copy of the book for $20 plus tax and shipping by clicking “Buy Now” below.

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So what’s “From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks” about?

Charles W. Gehrke was unflinching. Determined. Persistent.

He grew up among the poorest of the poor, yet carried only happy memories of those early years. Out of necessity, he learned the value of hard work, as he and his brother helped support their family even as children — but he never complained and never stopped working even during his final days on this earth.

In the 1960s, his work searching for amino acids, the building blocks of life, drew the attention of NASA which would soon launch missions to the moon. Charles was tapped to investigate the lunar samples for signs of life. Spoiler alert: He didn’t find any — but a transcript uncovered of a radio program from that time shows that he thought he would.

In 1968, he did something else unusual at the time and brought his research to the marketplace, launching ABC Labs, a firm that employed about 300 people prior to its buy out by global firm EAG Laboratories and later purchase by Eurofins Scientific. Eurofins is a Brussels-based firm with EUR 2.54 in annual revenues, 30,000 employees and 375 sites in 41 countries, according to this Dec. 4, 2017 Eurofins news release.

The book doesn’t ignore the difficulties in Charles’s life. His oldest son was killed in a plane crash in 1982 and his death haunted Charles all his life. Another dark time took place during the early 1990s when Charles found himself embroiled in a vicious power struggle that threatened to sink ABC Labs.

Despite those and other difficulties, “From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks” is a rags-to-riches story that highlights the adventurous life of Charles W. Gehrke, a biochemist, entrepreneur, and family man.