Sunday, January 30, 2011


On the afternoon of Thursday, January 27, about 50 members of the CU-Colorado Springs campus came together in the third floor apse of the Kraemer Family Library to share memories and reflections on the life and career of Jim Mattoon.  The gathering was sponsored by Chancellor Pam Shockley and hosted by Provost Peg Bacon.  After the Chancellor's opening remarks, I, along with numerous other folks, shared.

Jim was a colleague and friend.  In 1982, the biology department consisted of the late Bob Catlett as Chairman, Professor Don Van Horn, Professor Jim Eley, Jim and me.  Jim had joined the department three years earlier, and, as a Colorado native,  it was a coming-home for Jim, back to the state and to the mountains that he loved so much.  However, I don't think that was the main reason Jim came to UCCS.  Jim left a successful career at research intensive institutions, but like most of us who work here, Jim was a firm believer in the liberal arts undergraduate education in which students are introduced to the breadth of the academy as well as to the depths of the various disciplines.  Jim also believed in the three core activities of the professoriate - teaching, research and service.  Jim did not view these as non-overlapping magesteria, or even as complementary activities, but rather as integrated functions that strengthened one another.  Jim believed that research is integral to teaching, and was among the first to emphasize the importance of research at UCCS, including undergraduates as active participants.

As news of Jim's passing spread through the UCCS community, I heard from several of our former biology students, each of whom interestingly had continued their education to receive either an MD or PhD.  They appreciated Jim's teaching, commenting that he was a difficult but fair professor who would offer as much assistance as necessary to help them in the classroom; they appreciated his fervor for research that included them as a part of his research team; and they very much appreciated Jim as a mentor - someone who was interested not only in their scholarly development but also in their growth and maturity as individuals.

Among the many things that I appreciated about Jim, there are three that I will briefly mention:  commitment, passion, and vision.

Commitment - When one spoke of Jim, it often became Jim and Martha.  They were truly a team, with a shared commitment to UCCS [I believe that Martha helped found Curiosity Unlimited]; to their family, son Tom and daughter Jean, and grandson Travis who was surely the apple of their eye; to their church community; and to the greater Colorado Springs community.

Passion - When Jim was committed to something, he was also enthusiastic and passionate about his commitment.   In addition to the commitments mentioned, Jim was also committed to honesty, fairness and justice, and if he believed that there was dishonesty, unfairness or injustice, his passion would become visible.  Slowly his neck would begin to turn pink, and then the coloring would move to his face to become a crimson red, and the only way I can describe this would be "volcanic."  As the red intensified, there would soon be an eruption of words, sometimes accompanied by a fist-slam on the desk or a stomping of the foot.  But soon afterward, the color would disappear, his point would be well-taken, and Jim would return to a calmer state. 

Vision - When Jim arrived at UCCS in 1979, this campus was a dinghy tenuously and loosely tethered to the Flagship Campus in Boulder; it was Cragmoor, the Sanitarium, the extension campus.  But Jim saw much potential, not to grow into a mini-CU-Boulder, but to establish its own identity.  Part of that identity was a strong research program.  Jim had the audacity to propose and ultimately establish a Biotechnology Center outside of the Boulder city limits.  Jim was a leader and champion of research and scholarly work and for including undergraduates in these activities.  I believe Jim was very proud of the UCCS of 2010 compared to the UCCS of 1979.  We should always remember the many contributions that Jim and Martha made to this campus, and to the students, faculty and staff.  Nos vemos amigo, and godspeed.


Anonymous said...

Accurate to a T and a fitting eulogy for Dr. Mattoon. The three words were great summations and as I read it all various recollections of Jim came to mind. I started at UCCS in 1979 after 3 years in the Army and did not realize how things were in a state of evolution on the campus at that time. I was happy to be on a campus in which we were students and nit numbers and I will always remember that point.

Angelo Sambunaris, MD, CPI

Anonymous said...

You eloquently summarized my experiences with Dr. Mattoon. I found him to be exacting, and I use that as a term of endearment. His teaching was focused, his exams were specific, his expectations in the classroom were well-known in advance, his expectations in the lab were very high. He was exact in his criticism, which he expressed only when I earned it (I would gauge the need for treading lightly by how near the ears his hue was red). He was exact in his praise, which he gave me more freely than criticism. Life is rarely fair but in his classroom and lab it was – not easy, but certainly fair.

I come from a family of educators and I’ve had my fair share of classroom experience. Most educators teach, few educate. I would like to have been able to express my thanks to Jim while he was living. I missed that opportunity. I’m glad to express gratitude to you. You and Jim Mattoon educated me. For that I’m thankful.