Jerry Chaffin 1933 - 2011 Lawrence

Paid family tribute

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 friends of Jerry and his family 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 Master’s 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 partner Brent Morrison of Lawrence; and four grandchildren, Jesse Torneden, wife Nikki and children Taylor and McKenzie of Lawrence, Tyler Torneden, wife Megan and children Aiden, Mason and Bella of Overbrook, KS, Chelsea Chaffin of Lawrence and Paul Chaffin of Mesa, Arizona; three step-grandchildren, Ashley Culp, Katelin Harrell and Kellian Harrell, all of Lawrence; and a loving extended family. Jerry was preceded in death by his parents, a sister, Betty Rinnert, a brother-in-law, Jack Rinnert, and a daughter-in-law, Franci Chaffin.
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 for students with disabilities.
He 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 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 was responsible for over $16 million of grant awards that resulted in the establishment of a technology-focused project that is 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.
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. 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
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. Online condolences may be sent at

This information was provided to the Journal-World as a paid tribute.