James Froome ‘Jeff’ Kimpel, of Norman, OK, passed away February 22, 2020, at the age of 77. Jeff was born April 18, 1942, in Cincinnati, OH, to James E. and Dorothy B. Kimpel.
Growing up in Cincinnati, Jeff attended Walnut Hills High School, a college preparatory school whose student body was culturally and ethnically diverse. In 1964, he received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Denison University in Granville, OH. At Denison, he became a member of the American Commons Club, a fraternity without restrictions as to race, creed, or color. Jeff embraced the values he learned from these two institutions and applied them throughout his professional life as an educator, scientist, and mentor.
Upon entering the Air Force as an officer in 1964, Jeff received basic training in meteorology, an occupation which would ultimately become his career. He was a veteran of the Vietnam War and was awarded a Bronze Star for meritorious service in 1968. After completing his Air Force service, Jeff pursued graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin, where he earned his doctorate in meteorology in 1973.
Jeff began his academic career at the University of Oklahoma as an assistant professor and later became Director of the School of Meteorology. Over the ensuing years, he served in administrative positions at OU including: Associate Dean of the College of Engineering, Dean of the College of Geosciences, and Senior Vice President and Provost.
After leaving academia in 1997, Jeff became Director of NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory. Jeff’s legacy at NSSL was in establishing far-reaching programs designed to vastly improve hazardous weather and water warnings and forecasts; under his leadership, significant upgrades were added to the NEXRAD Doppler radar system, and research began on the Multifunction Phased Array Radar initiative. His long-held vision for a unique collaboration among university, research, and operations was realized with the completion of the National Weather Center. He retired from NSSL in 2010.
Among his many achievements, Jeff was named a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society and served as President in 2000. He received the OU Regents Award for Superior University and Professional Service; the Denison University Distinguished Alumni Citation; a U.S. Congressional Commendation; the Charles Franklin Brooks Award for Outstanding Service to the American Meteorological Society; and in 2017, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame.
Jeff was a true people-person: a teacher, mentor, collaborator, consensus-builder, leader, friend, and storyteller. He cared about and believed in others, and inspired people to do their best. Always proud of the successes and achievements of his students and co-workers, Jeff provided them opportunities for career growth and recognition. Throughout his life, he strove to apply his deeply-held principles of honesty, integrity, kindness, selflessness, generosity, and humility to all those whose lives he touched.
Jeff is survived by his son, Andrew Kimpel and grandson, Julian of San Francisco, CA; son, Thomas Kimpel and grandson, Jonathan of Olympia, WA; former wife and longtime friend, Joan O’Bannon of Norman; daughters, Mollie Lovera, Zoe Kimpel, and Hannah Kimpel; his siblings, John Kimpel of Boston, MA, Judy Roettig of Cape Cod, MA, Jane Pressler of Cincinnati, OH, and Thomas Kimpel of Evansville, IN.
Memorials in Jeff’s honor may be given to the University of Oklahoma Foundation “Dr. James Kimpel Memorial Scholarship Fund”, PO Box 258856 Oklahoma City, OK 73125-8856, https://giving.oufoundation.org/OnlineGivingWeb/Giving/OnlineGiving/KimpelMem, or to the National Weather Museum and Science Center, 1200 W. Rock Creek Rd, Suite B, Norman, OK 73071.
Life is precious and surprising and fleeting. Be kind to those you love and tell them you love them, still, and often. Above all, “Just do good things.”
The family has postponed the Memorial Service and Reception scheduled for Saturday, March 14, 2020, until a later date. New arrangements will be announced when available.
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University of Oklahoma Foundation "Dr. James Kimpel Memorial Scholarship Fund"
PO Box 258856, Norman OK 73125-8856
National Weather Museum and Science Center
1200 W. Rock Creek Rd, Suite B, Norman OK 73071