Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Celebration of John Rehder's Life

John Rehder's untimely and all too soon passing on April 19, 2011,was quite a shock to the whole department.  John was a kind man and a fine colleague and his death has created a large absence in the life and heart of our department.  In that context, faculty and students in the department got together on May 7, 2011, at Dr. Harden's house to celebrate John's life and to strengthen our connection with each other.  We are honored to have his wife, Judy Rehder, and daughter, Karen Rehder, at the celebration. For several hours, we shared many wonderful stories about John and we know that our lives have been enriched by John's presence and that anyone who spent time with him was better for it. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Tributes to John Rehder from His Former Students

David Mann: "Henri, Sorry to hear about John. He (and Sally) were the reasons I got interested in Geography. His love of culture always came through in all he did. We have lost a a very good friend. I am sorry I can not be there now. I am still in Afghanistan with the 101st in Kandahar and wont be back till June. Please pass my feelings on to everyone in our UT family. God Bless."

Tim Frazier: "I am deeply saddened by the loss of such a good man. I took John’s cultural geography class while I was an undergrad at UT and loved every minute of it. He told amazing stories woven into class lectures that made going to class the highlight of my day. I also had many conversations with John outside of class where his support and confidence in me helped me be successful in grad school at Penn State. I know we all have some favorite Rehder stories and I have told countless ones to my classes now that I am a university professor making my classes far richer. I do find some solace in knowing that John will live on through all these stores and all the students he touched. LSU lost a Tiger, UT lost a Vol, and we all lost a friend. I will miss my friend."

Annie Wambersie Strange: "What a tragic loss for the UT community. He was a wonderful professor and a truly kindhearted and compassionate person. May he always have his po'boys "dressed."

Jill Brickey: "When I was a young undergrad, wanting to study geography and learn about the world, I took Dr. Rehder's Geography of Appalachia class. It made me love my home and planted the desire to study my backyard -- the Great Smoky Mountains. I always enjoyed listening to Dr. Rehder talk about his field work experiences and the different things he encountered whether he was buying penny candy at a local general store or drinking chicha beer in Bolivia. I definitely enjoyed his stories (all of them) and talking to him to hear about his latest research or his grandkids. My prayers are for his family."

Daniel Lewis: "Dr Rehder told us a story in cultural geography class when I was an undergrad eons ago. He was in Bolivia I think, speaking with a village elder. The man told John one of his favorite foods was grub worms. John told him that sounded awful and he couldn't believe he would eat that. So the man proceeded to ask John what his favorite food was. John said "chicken". The man said, "chickens are filthy, nasty animals! I can't believe you would eat them"! It's all in your perspective, John said."

Nicole Samu: "He had a way of making students feel comfortable speaking in front of the class...I remember him saying something like "just pretend like you're having a conversation with your brother or sister". He had something good to say about everyone. When I took his class as an undergrad was probably the first time that I didn't feel panic stricken throughout an entire presentation. I'm so grateful for him making me realize that that was even possible! He was a great person and professor and will definitely be missed!!"

Desiree Kocis: "I took one of his classes as an undergrad years ago. I was still fairly new to TN, and was really homesick for Louisiana. His class was a blessing because, well, all he ever talked about was Louisiana! I only missed his class once... the morning of September 11th, when the Twin Towers were falling and our nation was crying. Wouldn't have missed that class for a lessor reason. A true character I will always remember."

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sid Jumper Receives the Outstanding Alumnus Award

At the department's recent awards ceremony, Bruce Ralston honored the contributions of Sid Jumper to our department, to the university, and to the field of geography:

The department recently created the Outstanding Alumnus Award as a way of recognizing the professional accomplishments of our graduates. It is my high honor to announce that this year’s award goes to Dr. Sidney R. Jumper for Outstanding Contributions to Geography Education. There is no one more deserving of such an honor as Sid.

Sidney Jumper received his Ph.D. in 1960 for a dissertation entitled “A Geographical Analysis of the Production and Marketing of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.” In the late 1960s Sid was teaching at Tennessee Tech when he was hired to return to his Alma Mater. Usually, hiring one’s own graduates is frowned upon in academia, but this was an exception that proved most valuable to generations of students at all levels. This is not hyperbole, it is not some sappy statement to make an old friend feel good. It is the God’s-Honest-Truth.

In 1977 Sid was named department head to succeed Edwin Hammond who stepped down that year. For the next 18 years the administration, faculty, staff, and students of this university were blessed to work with Sid. It is fair to say that today’s department was very much shaped by Sid’s leadership. During his period of leadership we added new faculty members, made strategic decisions on what we could and could not offer as specialties, put a new emphasis on research and scholarship, and perhaps most importantly developed a culture of open management and civility.

In 1986 Dr. Jumper, along with Dr. Ted Schmudde, established the Tennessee Geographic Alliance, one of seven pilot alliances in the US. Form its humble beginnings the Alliance has grown to include nearly 5000 K-12 teachers, hosts a myriad of programs throughout the state, and is in many ways the epitome of what service and outreach are all about. Over $3.6 million has been spent on improving geography education in our state.

Dr. Jumper’s contributions have not gone unnoticed. In 2001, the National Geographic Society announced the establishment of the Sidney Jumper Grant for Teaching Research. At the announcement ceremonies Gilbert Grovsner, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees at NGS not only praised the efforts of Sid, he also praised the support and sacrifices of Mickey Jumper, Sid’s wife. Several teachers have taken advantage of this scholarship to work with Professors Sally Horn and Carol Harden.

In 2000, the Association of American Geographers presented Sid with the AAG Distinguished Service Honors. At the presentation Ronald Abler, the Executive Director of the AAG, stated “For over 30 years, the name Sidney Jumper has been synonymous with geography education in Tennessee.”

In 1990 Jumper was awarded the Chancellor’s Citation for Extraordinary Service. He was present the Distinguished Service Award of the UT National Alumni Association. In 2005 the department had its 10 year program review. To say it was successful would be an understatement. At the end of the review Dean Riggsby stopped by my office to tell me that it was the best review he could remember. I immediately thought of Sid: his long hours, his dedication, and his vision. I wrote him an email telling him how much I wished he could have been there to hear the words of the dean. “We are walking in tall cotton these days…. Thanks for the investment in thought, hope, and courage you made in all of us.” (I also told him not to expect any more sappy emails from me!)

Sid’s contributions continue today. Without his leadership the department would not be as strong as it is. We may not have secured the generous funding of William Burchfiel for the Burchfiel Geography Building. Students in our state would have teachers who are much less prepared to teach geography than they are today. It is right that we honor him. Sid once confided in me that such honors made him uncomfortable. The hero worship was a bit too much to take. We can’t help it. Sid is our hero. As I look at this audience of students and faculty in our department, I realize that every one of us has been touched by this man. One thought occurs to me again and again. How could we not love this man?