Jerry Chaffin, 78, longtime Lawrence resident and retired University of Kansas Professor of Special Education, died Monday, May 23, 2011, at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. A reception in celebration of Jerry’s life will be hosted by his family from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 11, in his home at 2012 Inverness Drive, Lawrence, KS, 66047. All are welcome.
Jerry was born on January 31, 1933, in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, capital of the Cherokee Nation, to the late Ira and Edna Wideman Chaffin. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Education at Northeastern State College in 1958, a Masters in Education in Psychology and Special Education at Kansas State Teachers-Emporia in 1961, and a Doctor of Education in Special Education at the University of Kansas in 1967. Jerry married Ronnie Lana on February 27, 1953, and they had two children, Cristopher and Rhonda. They divorced. He married Barbara Thompson on April 23, 1983. He is survived by his wife, Barbara, of the home, his son Cris Chaffin and wife Lea of Lawrence, his daughter, Rhonda Chaffin and her partner, Brent Morrison of Lawrence, and four grandchildren, Jesse Torneden and wife Nikki of Lawrence, Tyler Torneden and wife Megan of Overbrook, KS, Chelsea Chaffin of Lawrence and Paul Chaffin of Mesa, Arizona, and three step-grandchildren, Ashley Culp and her husband Chris Culp of Lawrence, Katelin Harrell of Lawrence and Kellian Harrell of Lawrence. His five great-grandchildren include Taylor, McKenzie, Aidan, Mason and Bella. His loving extended family include his aunt, Opal McClendon of Raymond, MS, his uncle, Everett Chaffin of Enid, OK, sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Cynthia and Robert Gilchrest of Bethel, Connecticut, five nieces and nephews, Steve Rinnert of Springdale, AR, Susan Harriman of Huntsville, AR, Abigail Haas of Spartanburg, SC, Emily Price of Washington D.C., Matt Price of Larchmont, NY, and their families which include their spouses and 14 grandnephews and nieces. Jerry was preceded in death by his parents, sister, Betty Rinnert, brother-in-law, Jack Rinnert, daughter-in-law, Franci Chaffin, and nephew, David Rinnert.
A pioneer and visionary in the fields of special education and educational technology, Jerry cared deeply about the quality of educational services and opportunities available to children and youth. He began his career as a classroom teacher and taught in the Derby Kansas Public Schools from 1954 to 1956 and again from 1958 to 1962. During the years from 1954 to 1956, he served in the United States Army and was stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso, TX. As the Director of Special Education in Shawnee Mission Public Schools from 1962 to 1964, Jerry was instrumental in developing a model program of community-based work experiences that provided on-the-job vocational training and placement for post school employment for students with disabilities. He was among the first doctoral graduates of the newly formed Department of Special Education at the University of Kansas. During his doctoral program from 1964-1967, he served as the Project Co-Director of the Special Education and Rehabilitation Project at the Kansas University Medical Center. Upon the completion of his doctorate in 1967, he served as director of several federally funded projects at Parsons State Hospital and Training Center in Parsons, Kansas, for one year. He then joined the Special Education Faculty at the University of Kansas in 1968 and remained on the faculty until his full retirement in 2008.
During his tenure with the Department of Special Education, Jerry served as the Program Administrator for the Lawrence Campus branch of the Department from 1972-1974, Acting Chair of the Department from 1974-1975 and Department Chair from 1988-1993. He developed and coordinated the department’s Vocational Training Programs from 1968-1969, developed and coordinated the Department’s Administrative and Supervisory Training Programs from 1969-1988 and served as the Department’s Director of Technology from 1992-2003. Jerry directed multiple funded grant projects that have contributed to the development of innovative educational approaches and products as well as personnel development. He was a member of numerous professional organizations, served as consultant to over 100 local, state, national and international agencies and programs and published many articles, chapters and technical manuals. Among his honors and awards, the most recent were the 2005 School of Education Faculty Service Award and the 2006 Gene A. Budig Teaching Professor in Special Education Award. He was especially proud of being named a Friend of Education by the Lawrence Public Schools.
An early proponent of a full service and inclusionary school model for learners with disabilities, Jerry collaborated with Lawrence Public School personnel on an innovative grant that provided funding for the “Pinckney Project.” Beginning in 1975, Pinckney Elementary School became an early “mainstreaming” pilot school in which children with disabilities were included into general education classrooms with their chronological age peers and strategies were identified and implemented to expand the roles of special educators as collaborators with general educators.
Jerry received international recognition for his early and innovative work in educational applications of both microcomputer technology and the Internet. He was the lead author/developer of 31 educational software programs initially published between 1983 and 1987 that incorporated components of research on learning with the motivational elements of video arcade games. These early games serve as the model for 42 presently online educational video games The Arcademic Skill Builders, which are free, research-based, and standards-aligned single and multiplayer educational games.
Early in recognizing the Internet’s potential for communication and educational applications, Jerry conceptualized and led the development of over 16 million dollars of grant awards that resulted in the establishment of a technology-focused project committed to developing new technologies for empowering learners of all types and ages and to redefining the learning experience with the most advanced and innovative technologies available to improve teaching and learning. The project, now known as Advanced Learning Technologies Project (ALTEC) is part of the KU Center for Research on Learning. Jerry served as the Director from 1995 to 2005, and led the development of numerous Internet-based resources and tools for teachers and learners. An early ALTEC resource developed by Jerry and colleagues in 1996, www.4kids is a weekly feature published in newspapers throughout the U.S. and Canada as well as a Web site that produces articles and links for quality online learning for children and youth. Also under the umbrella of ALTEC, the 4teachers link allows teachers to integrate technology into their classroom via 14 online tools. By the late 1990s, Jerry began pioneering the use of Interactive Video Conferencing (IVC) as a way of connecting teachers and learners in public school classrooms with faculty and students in teacher education courses. He believed that this technology, widely used by the corporate world, would have a significant impact on how students are taught.
Jerry was a generous and engaging person who has frequently been described as genuine and forthright. His sense of humor often brought a valuable perspective to a range of situations. Jerry viewed students as partners and colleagues and loved collaborating with them over the entire course of his career. Appreciated by students for his interest in them as individuals as well as their ideas and projects, he served as a wonderful mentor over the many years he was an educator. A basketball player in high school and college, Jerry enjoyed sports. He was always an enthusiastic spectator and, until his physical condition prevented his participation, he was an avid tennis player and golfer.
During the past seven years that Jerry lived with lung cancer, he felt fortunate to have access to the medical treatments that now allow many more individuals with cancer to view their disease as more chronic than immediately terminal. Active for much of this time, he always maintained his sense of humor, interest in the world, family, friends and students. He remained deeply interested in emerging technologies and continued to believe in the importance of technology as a powerful educational tool and vehicle for improving the quality of life and well-being of all children and youth. The example he provided us is captured by the quote: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass… it’s learning to dance in the rain.”- Unknown
Jerry’s family is grateful for the support received from Jerry’s colleagues and friends in the Department of Special Education, the School of Education and ALTEC. His family especially appreciates the many years of excellent medical care he received from Rodney Bishop, M.D., and his internal medicine staff members, and also deeply appreciate the care he received from Sharon Soule, M.D., and the staff members of the Lawrence Oncology Unit as well as from Roger Dreiling, M.D., and his cardiac care staff members. They would also like to thank the medical staff at MD Anderson Cancer Center and Lawrence Memorial Hospital.
The family suggests memorials to the Jerry D. Chaffin Fund for Douglas County Children and Youth In Need, established as part of the Douglas County Community Foundation, or Health Care Access, which can be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th St., Lawrence, KS 66044.