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?