Remembered for innovation and brilliance as an educator
Professor Emeritus James L. Clapp died in March 2007. A Wisconsin native, Jim was a world-renowned thinker and educator, an innovator who spurned traditional approaches, a humorist who could not resist telling stories, and a person who felt deeply about his principles, his students, and UW-Madison.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in naval science and BS, MS and PhD degrees from UW-Madison. Except for six years as dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Maine-Orono, Jim was a member of the UW-Madison Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering faculty for nearly three decades.
A pioneer in interdisciplinary research, Jim played a key role in the formative years of what now is the UW-Madison Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. He was chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and director of the Center for Land Information Studies. Appointed by the Governor, Jim chaired the Wisconsin Land Records Committee and was president of the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping. He received the Congressional Medal for Antarctic Service as a result of his interdisciplinary approach to applying satellite geodesy to ice-flow problems. With his graduate students, Jim was instrumental in developing and promoting the idea of a multipurpose land-use database, leading to a series of National Research Council reports, and helping to provide the basis for today’s rich environment of information about land as a resource and treasure.
Above all, Jim loved helping his students learn. Those students, and his colleagues, will remember him with fondness, admiration and deep respect far into the future.