Gone but Not Forgotten: Recently passed faculty left their mark at MSU

Dedication to students

Warren L. Jones, professor of civil and environmental engineering, passed away July 7 after a prolonged battle with cancer. He is remembered for being 100 percent dedicated to the success of his students, both undergraduate and graduate. In 1986, Since moving with his wife to Montana when he was hired at MSU in 1986, he had a love for students that was evident to all around him.

A colleague of Jones, Ann Camper, said the two met at a pizza party meet-and-greet in 1986. Not only did they share a common interest in the classroom of environmental engineering, but also dog training and quickly became friends.

Camper went on to say, “His love for his students and his dedication to teaching both his undergraduates and graduates was second to none, especially for those he advised.” She also said, “He would go out of his way for his students, he really wanted them to be successful.” Chris Allen, a graduate student of Jones, remembers him as a mentor. Allen stated, “He is the person that made me believe that I had the ability to succeed in graduate school and that there is an incredibly important role for people in higher education that prioritize teaching above all else.”

“Not only was he a great teacher, he was a faculty leader on campus in many aspects, both in the classroom and on faculty senate,” Camper said. This summer, Jones was honored with a lifetime achievement award presented jointly by the Montana Water Environment Association and the Montana Section of the American Waterworks Association.

[pullquote align=”right”][Warren’s] love for his students and his dedication to teaching for both his undergraduate and graduates especially his advisors was second to none.” — Ann Camper[/pullquote]

Allen said, “Warren was able to be both a tough instructor and supportive mentor. He had the unique ability to provide the type of support and perspective that could help you navigate school bureaucracy, tackle problems with tough solutions and remind you the importance of good questions, including: Are you having enough fun?”

Jones took more pride in his wife of over 25 years, Samie, and his son Derek, than any of his professional accomplishments. Derek is currently a sophomore at MSU. “Jones was often found talking about one or the other with a smile on his face,” said Camper.

Along with his family, he loved all music and was a member of the band, Textbook Blue. Due to his dedication to teaching, a scholarship for engineering students has been established in his name. Jones was a huge asset to MSU and he will be missed not only in the Engineering department but on the campus as a whole.

Transforming ITC

Dewitt Latimer died the afternoon of May 5 when his motorcycle collided with a van while riding westbound on Norris Road. Despite his short time in Montana, he left a lasting mark on the MSU Information Technology Center (ITC) in 11 months.

Latimer joined MSU as the Chief Information Officer in June 2012 after moving from Indiana. “He brought a level of expertise and credibility to the role of Chief Information Officer,” said Adam Edelman, MSU’s interim CIO and good friend of Latimer. “Latimer shook things up here in the technology world; he changed the university’s view on technology,” Edelman added.

According to Edelman, Latimer “corrected the Wi-Fi”, upgraded the system and set the platform for MSU to eventually have Wi-Fi on all corners of campus. He transformed IT for years to come, a movement ITC plans to continue. Dewitt provided great leadership and without him this transformation would not have happened.

Edelman said, “It was a time of transformation, an uphill battle. His level of excitement was fantastic.” Edelman explained, “Latimer was on the forefront of ITC and opened doors for both research and supports for MSU to be the best of the best.”

[pullquote align=”right”]“[Latimer] was very proud of his kids… very proud.  He talked about them often and they were very important to him.” — Adam Edelman[/pullquote]

Dewitt was a family man even if he was halfway across the country from his wife and kids. He is survived by four children ages 10-17 and a wife that he had planned to move to Montana in the future. He loved Montana and wanted it to be home. Some of his hobbies included skiing and following his passion for every aspect of technology. Edelman quieted as he stated, “He was very proud of his kids — very proud.  He talked about them often and they were very important to him.”

An even bigger adventure

Betsy Palmer, an associate professor in education, passed away May 20 as a result of injuries sustained in a landslide while traveling in Nepal with MSU students. Palmer led a group of 16 students on a course offered through the Honors Program, where she took them to visit her family’s village, adding a personal touch to a special trip. Palmer taught statistics and a research methods class during her time at MSU, and her words of wisdom will be missed by her students at MSU.

Palmer’s memorial service was held Sept. 13 at MSU and it was evident she will leave a hole hard to fill, not only for her family but for the community and MSU. Palmer, who had worked at MSU since 2001, had deep roots in Nepal. It was there in 2005 that she met her husband John, who was raised in the village of Pandok, and they were married in a traditional Nepali ceremony. John and Betsy had twins, a son and daughter who are currently 5-years-old.

She spent the 2011–2012 academic year doing research in Nepal and was remembered for her ability to stay in constant communication with her students in Montana, despite dealing with spotty internet connections halfway around the world. In 2012, Palmer won the MSU education department’s outstanding research award.

Beth Burroughs, one of Palmer’s colleagues, said, “We miss Betsy and her expertise already.”
She continued, “I also knew her as a parent. For me, the most difficult part of Betsy’s death is that her two children will grow up without their mother.”

Palmer loved motherhood, and it was evident. She had an office filled with photos of the twins.  “No one knows how to eulogize the mother of young children. I don’t know how to do that either, but I hope that everyone who knew Betsy, even just a little, will find a way to share what they know about Betsy with her children,” Burroughs said .

[pullquote]“Betsy impacted my life by opening my eyes to another part of the world. I think she would like to be remembered for her kindness and dedication to teaching the next generation.” — Monica Mitchell[/pullquote]

Monica Mitchell, a student who was in Nepal with Palmer, was quick to remark on her impact, “Betsy impacted my life by opening my eyes to another part of the world … For that opportunity, I will be forever grateful.” She continued, “I think she would like to be remembered for her kindness and dedication to teaching the next generation.”

Burroughs ended by saying, “Her children still have the resilience of youth, and are fortunate that their father is such a caring, capable parent. And as her children grow, they deserve to know about the life that Betsy lived and the person that Betsy was.”

Retiring after great successes

Dr. Robert Glen Oakberg died June 15 from complications from a short-term medical illness. After earning a B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in civil engineering, all from Stanford University, Oakberg worked at MSU as an engineering professor for 34 years.

Noted by MSU athletic director, Peter Fields, Oakberg was “dedicated to helping students at this university, and so many student-athletes benefited from his passion.” Retiring in 2001, he also served as the Faculty Athletics Representative and later on the Faculty Council.

Stuart Knapp, 84, died May 25 after working as a long-time administrator and professor at MSU.

Originally coming to MSU in 1978, Knapp spent the next 21 years serving in various roles across campus including acting president of MSU, parasitology professor, interim dean of the College of Agriculture and Vice-President for Academic Affairs.

With his extensive work at MSU, Knapp established MSU’s International Studies Program and, in 1981, the University Honors Program. As the developer of the acclaimed “Great Expeditions” course offered through the program, Knapp turned to even greater aspirations. In 1984 and in conjunction with then-president Bill Tietz, Knapp established the Presidential Scholarship Program. Before retiring in 1999, he went on to launch MSU’s efforts for students to apply for Goldwater and Rhodes scholarships, which he saw many students win before his death.

Knapp is remembered for saying, “Never forget. It’s all about students, students, students.”