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Professor Emeritus John A. Crampton Remembered

December 06, 2013

Dear Colleagues,

I am sad to report that Professor Emeritus John A. Crampton died on Saturday, November 30, at Terwilliger Plaza here in Portland. A member of the Political Science Department from 1959 until his retirement in 1988, Jack Crampton was a memorable teacher who influenced generations of Lewis & Clark students.

Jack received his bachelor’s degree magna cum laude from the University of Minnesota in 1947. His undergraduate studies were interrupted by World War II.  From 1943 till 1946, he served in the U.S. infantry in Belgium and Germany. He was injured in combat and awarded the Purple Heart.  After graduation, he worked for a year as a newspaper reporter in his home state of Minnesota,  then went on to earn his master’s degree in comparative government at Boston University and his Ph.D. at University of California, Berkeley in 1958. He published a book entitled The Farmers Union: Ideology of a Pressure Group (University of Nebraska Press, 1965) based on his dissertation research. After teaching at a number of schools, including Colorado College, University of California-Santa Barbara, and the University of Washington, he joined the Lewis & Clark faculty in 1959.

Jack had wide-ranging interests as a teacher and scholar, including U.S. government, comparative politics, U.S. military policy, and civil rights.  His interests did not stop, however, at the boundaries of his discipline. Professor Don Balmer characterized his teaching in this way: “His lectures and class sessions [were] jam-packed with the very latest research data and broadest selection of relevant materials—poetry, novels, paintings, photographs, recordings.” Students found his courses challenging and sometimes life-changing.

His tough grading was legendary as was his serious engagement of student work.  Paul Clayman, Class of ’78, remembers Professor Crampton giving him “a five-page single-spaced critique of a five-page double-spaced paper.”

Frank Dillow, Class of 1968, recalls being summoned as a first year student to Professor Crampton’s office and quizzed about what he’d done in his life. Had he ever read a book or seen a play?  Apparently his stammering response did not satisfy Professor Crampton, who declared, “You’ve wasted the first eighteen years of your life! “ He dug through the drawer of his desk, pulled out two theatre tickets, handed them to Frank, and said, “Here, take these and don’t waste any more time.”

Filmmaker Sandra Sunrising Osawa, Class of 1964, recalled that Professor Crampton emphasized the importance of taking courses across the curriculum rather than narrowly specializing in a particular area. “’That broad-based approach is still with me,’ says Osawa. “It’s what separates me from other filmmakers. I tend to have layers, not just one single narrative.”

Don Balmer says, “Jack Crampton will be appropriately remembered for setting high standards for himself, his students, and his colleagues.”

Jack is survived by his wife of 64 years, Georgia Ronan Crampton.  Our hearts go out to her in sympathy.

There will be a private burial in Minnesota and no public service.


Vice President and Provost Jane Atkinson

For more information:

Office of the Provost