Jack Wilmore an Appreciation
My teacher, colleague and friend Jack Wilmore died last weekend at the age of 76. He is survived by his wife of more than 50 years Dottie, their three daughters and families.
After graduating in the middle 1960s with his Ph.D. from Oregon, Jack taught at Ithaca College, Cal, UC Davis, Arizona, Texas, and Texas A&M. He was named Distinguished Professor at both Texas and Texas A&M. Given the rivalry (hatred?) between The University of Texas and Texas A&M, I wonder if anyone else has ever held such high academic rank at both places.
I was lucky enough to work in Jack’s exercise physiology lab at the University of Arizona as an undergrad and medical student from the late 70s through the middle 80s. While there are a million stories to tell, I think there is a three-fold “bigger narrative” about what Jack Wilmore accomplished and left for us all.
The Emergence of Exercise Science
The first part of the narrative is about how Jack and a few key colleagues around the country and world realized that physical education as known in the 1950s and 60s had to become more scientific and more intellectually rigorous. This led to a real flowering of what we now call Exercise Science or Kinesiology at essentially all of the big research universities and other academic institutions in North America, and the developed world. This flowering led to the development of majors in related fields that have grown tremendously over the last 20-30 years. On many campuses these major are now among the most popular science majors. They are also key “pipeline” majors for undergrads interested in graduate or professional training in a number of health related fields. Very few people can say they participated in the broad based re-engineering of higher education on a worldwide basis; Jack Wilmore was a major player in this movement.
The Cutting Edge of Research
Jack was also at the forefront of a number of exercise related research themes starting in the 1960s. A short list includes:
- A number of pioneering studies and books on body composition that among other things anticipated the “obesity epidemic” by several decades.
- Early studies on female athletes.
- Major contributions on topics related to adult fitness and cardiac rehab. Like the story for body composition and obesity, these contributions were several decades ahead of the current concerns about the health consequence of physical inactivity on the population as a whole.
- The pioneering development of semi-automated and automated “metabolic carts” to measure oxygen consumption. This really was the first wave of innovation in this area and again Jack anticipated what came decades later with the automated commercial systems that are used all over the world today.
- Physiology studies that included topics like human performance, thermoregulation, the physiology of maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max), and the lactate threshold.
- The genetics of training adaptations.
The other interesting thing is that Dr. Wilmore was a superb classroom teacher. You hear a lot about faculty at big universities being buried in the lab and uninterested or ineffective at undergraduate teaching. Jack was the best classroom teacher I had as an undergrad. He was organized, engaged, and able to really transmit his interest and expertise to students.
All of his scientific and educational achievement was accomplished with an eye toward collaboration and what could be learned from others. Jack’s collaborative spirit brings me to the third element of the three-fold narrative.
Jack the Good Guy!
Over the last couple of days I have received all sorts of anecdotes about something helpful Jack did for someone. Things like a thoughtful and supportive question to a student at a conference, or a key letter for a younger colleague as they climbed the academic ranks. The comments from his many collaborators focus on his generosity and ability to put his ego aside while looking for solutions vs. having his way.
In Tucson, Jack had a sign on his desk that said “don’t let the urgent crowd out the important”. When you combine that maxim with his ability to channel vs. suppress the energy of young people, his availability, and his ability to frame almost anything in a positive context you can see in retrospect how it all came together. Thus, there is a long, long list of people who benefited from and loved working with Dr. Wilmore. Nobody ever worked for him.
At the end of VO2 max tests on highly trained athletes, Jack had a knack for drifting out of his nearby office to the treadmill lab. As the test reached a climax with the runner going all out he would encourage us with a “beautiful job” just at the point of exhaustion. It was something we all wanted to hear but we never got to say it to him.
Beautiful job, Jack!…….
Tags: Jack Wilmore
This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 18th, 2014 at 5:12 am and is filed under Current Events. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.