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Archive for Monday, July 28, 2003

Former KU professor’s love of teaching recalled

J. Eldon Fields, who died Friday, was first recipient of HOPE Award

July 28, 2003

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A former Kansas University political science professor who died Friday was known for his classroom enthusiasm, but he also had a quiet manner, friends and colleagues said.

The teaching abilities of J. Eldon Fields, 90, earned him special recognition in 1968 when he became KU's first recipient of the HOPE Award for excellence in teaching. He also earned several other teaching awards.

KU gives an annual award in Fields' name to an outstanding senior in political science.

"Eldon was completely dedicated to teaching," said Jim Drury, professor emeritus in government and longtime neighbor, friend and colleague to Fields. "He didn't want to be, and refused to be, a researcher."

Walter H. Crockett first met Fields as a student in the political science department in 1947.

"I admired Eldon very much," Crockett, professor emeritus in communication studies, said. "He was one of those people who was born to be a teacher. He taught, and taught in a very intelligent way."

Fields came to KU in 1946 after teaching at Syracuse University in New York and the University of Chicago, then serving in the military for more than two years during World War II. He retired in 1983.

Fields once said in an interview that he tried to emphasize to his students the importance of raising questions rather than giving answers. He said students were never required to agree with his views.

Fields also was known for his interest in nature and gardening. He had a garden that covered an acre where he planted flowers and created rock designs, according to Drury.

Fields also took pictures of nature scenes and made his photography into Christmas cards, Crockett said.

Perhaps the biggest tribute to Fields is a collection of 50 to 100 letters from former students from around the world sent at the time of his retirement.

Services for Fields are pending and will be announced by Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home.

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