Campbellsville University Retired Professor, Dr. Tom Jeffries, Dies at 66

By Joan C. McKinney, director of university communications

CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – Dr. Thomas V. “Tom” Jeffries, retired professor of chemistry who taught chemistry at Campbellsville University 37 years, died at 4:58 p.m. Monday, Oct. 30 at Norton Hospital in Louisville of leukemia. He was 66.

Jeffries began teaching at CU in August 1968 and retired in June 2006.

“Dr. Tom Jeffries loved Campbellsville University, and he loved teaching,” said Dr. W.R. Davenport, president of Campbellsville University from 1969 to 1988.

“He had a special way with students, and left his mark on many of them. Two generations of my own family learned chemistry from him, and they have a deep respect for him — both as professor and as mentor.

“My administrative relationship with Tom spanned almost two decades, and while we had occasional points of healthy difference, I had no more loyal supporter from among the faculty. He was devoted to his work, to his students, and to our mutual calling.

“Our prayers are that God’s love and comfort will sustain Wanda and the girls in this great loss that is also shared by so many.

“Tom Jeffries possessed a keen interest in his discipline and in his students,” said Dr. Robert S. Clark, who is vice president for academic affairs and professor emeritus and who worked with Jeffries during his 32-year tenure at CU.

“Although broadly trained in science, he specialized in chemistry, and many students preparing to teach in the elementary grades took his course in geology,” Clark said.

“Dr. Jeffries followed his students in the health professions: physicians, pharmacists, dentists and veterinary medicine. They maintained contact with him discussing their careers,” Clark said.

“Tom was the smartest person I have ever known if the yardstick is breadth and depth of knowledge plus the ability to recall names, dates, events and even jokes,” said Dr. Milton Rogers, professor of biology at CU, who worked with Jeffries for over 30 years.

“His mental ability to learn, store and recall information continually amazed me. I already miss that,” he said.

“In his professional life, he had a breadth of knowledge that few could match,” Rogers said. “It ranged from geology and paleontology to chemistry, physics, biology and mathematics,” he said.

Tommy Clark, professor of art at CU, came to Campbellsville University in 1972 and was in the same Sunday School class at Campbellsville Baptist Church for almost 35 years. “Tom would hardly ever miss Sunday School,” he said.

“Tom had a great interest in art and showed art talent himself,” said Clark. “We also shared a similar interest in dinosaurs; he even made some in clay, as I do. Whenever I’m teaching ceramics and have a problem understanding some of the glaze chemicals, he was just a call away, where he helped me understand why certain chemical properties react the way they do.”

Clark said, “He’s been a great friend, and I miss getting to talk to him.”

Jeffries, a tall man, did cross stitch as a hobby with United States postal stamps as a special point of interest. He had no pattern from which to produce the cross stitch pieces.

He was an avid collector; however, he was not content just to acquire items, Rogers said.

“He was not satisfied until he had studied about the things he was collecting to the point of being an expert on the subject,” Rogers said.

“Just in the area of Roman coins, he had more knowledge about the coins than individuals who wrote articles about the Roman era,” he said.

Rogers said he had the most “varied range of interests of anyone I have ever known.” The following list of interests illustrate the point, Rogers said, as Jeffries grew bonsai trees, was an avid gardener, crafted doll furniture, made muzzle-loading guns and pistols, constructed a water garden with koi, grew maple trees in his yard from all over the world, was an excellent chef, was an incredible artist and loved to travel in such varied places as Europe and the western United States.

Jeffries loved his cars – especially his Corvettes. “His love for cars was not limited to Corvettes, however, because at one time, he restored a 1928 Ford Pick-up truck back to the original specifications,” Rogers said.

Clark said he would always call on Jeffries to help him propagate his plants. “He would also share many of his plants with me. He and Milton Rogers have taught me about everything there is to know about pruning plants and trees properly, without damaging them.”

Jeffries received his doctor of arts degree from Middle Tennessee State University in 1987. He received a master of arts in 1967 from Western Kentucky University where he received his bachelor of science in 1962. He also studied environmental biology at Bowling Green State University, chemistry at WKU, embryology at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, N.C. and physics at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.

He graduated from Metcalfe County High School in 1958, and is the son of the late Elmer Vincent and Eugenia Cassidy Jeffries, formerly of Center, Ky. Jeffries was born in Metcalfe County in Kentucky.

Before beginning his career at Campbellsville University, Jeffries taught chemistry and biology from 1962 to 1968 at Hiseville High School in Barren County. He taught at Marion County High School for the academic year 2005-06.

He was a member of Phi Kappa Phi, an organization for the recognition and encouragement of superior scholarship in all academic disciplines; the American Chemical Society and Tennessee Academy of Science.

Jeffries and his wife, Wanda Blaydes Jeffries, a 1969 CU graduate, who survives, had two daughters who also survive, Alyssa L. Jeffries, who graduated in 2002 from CU, and Camille Jeffries Holt, a 2000 CU graduate who is married to Daniel Holt and who has a daughter, Chloe Isabel Holt, and a son, Caleb Daniel Holt. He was preceded in death by a daughter, Larissa Shelly Jeffries in 1974.

Other survivors include: four sisters and their spouses: Lanie and Jerry Ramsey and Janie and Jimmy Middleton of Sonora, Ky.; Martha Lou and Dean Martin of Horse Cave, Ky., and Rosalee Jeffries of Center; his mother-in-law, Chrystal Blaydes of Campbellsville; three nieces and four nephews; and many other relatives and friends.

Visitation will be from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 1 at Campbellsville Baptist Church. The funeral will be at 1 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 2 at Campbellsville Baptist Church.

Officiating at the service will be the Rev. Skip Alexander, Dr. H. Ray England, Dr. Robert Doty and the Rev. J. Alvin Hardy.

Pallbearers will be: Ricky Asbury, Stan Harlow, Ronnie Jeffries, Kenneth “Shorty” Matney, Chris Pickett, Jeffrey Ramsey, Dr. Milton Rogers and Dr. Harlie White. Honorary pallbearers are: Bill Bryan, Tommy Clark, Dr. W.R. Davenport, Talmadge Derringer, Joe DeSpain, Dr. Robert Doty, Joe Foster, James Graves, Dr. Richie Kessler, Dr. Glenn McQuaide, Russ Mobley, Neil Moseley, Ron Rafferty, Dr. Vernon Roddy, Dr. Eugene Shively, Gordon Smith, Dr. Robert Street, Dr. Gordon Weddle and Dr. Ken Winters.

Expressions of sympathy may take the form of donations to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society or Gideon Bibles. Parrott and Ramsey Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements. Burial is in Brookside Mausoleum.

Campbellsville University, now celebrating her Centennial year, is a private, comprehensive institution located in South Central Kentucky. Founded in 1906, Campbellsville University is affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention and has an enrollment of 2,310 students who represent 100 Kentucky counties, 32 states and 28 foreign nations. Listed in U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” 14 consecutive years as one of the leading Southern master’s colleges and universities, Campbellsville University is located 82 miles southwest of Lexington, Ky., and 80 miles southeast of Louisville, Ky. Dr. Michael V. Carter is in his eighth year as president.

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