[Bristol-Birds] Dr. Tom Copeland, a teacher and great friend, dead at age 94.

  • From: "BBC Net" <jwcoffey@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "'Bristol Birds'" <bristol-birds@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 25 Jun 2015 00:01:32 -0400



Dr. Thomas P. Copeland, age 94, passed away

Monday, 22 June 2015, at Christian Care Center,

Johnson City, TN following a lengthy illness.

His life had an impact on many of us as he was

the Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences

at East Tennessee State University. He retired in 1983 as Professor

after 33 years of service to the university. He moved to Johnson City in

1950 to teach at ETSU.

He always called me "Coffey" and I had many fond memories of

his presence in the halls of the science building and elsewhere.

Students use to enjoy the fact he sometimes stood in the center hall

and watched over students as classes changed - something like a high

school principal lording over the rowdies.

I made a point of patting him on the back and telling him how nice

it was to see him as I walked past.

He once responded by reaching in his suit pocket and pulling out

a large cigar which he proudly presented me. Then he fetched

his lighter and we stood together in the hall and made small talk

while we smoked cigars. He seemed to love that. I did ! Classmates

made fun of me for weeks after I schmoozed up to him in a cloud

of smoke.

I remember, in much later years, that he was so impressed with

Charlie Smith, when Charlie was a sophomore, that he gave him a

key to the building so the young and promising student

could come and go at all hours to study and work in the labs.

Young Charlie earned his Ph.D. at Cornell University and was

once acting director of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

Another memorable encounter with "Copeland" came on

25 April 1969 at the Unaka Naturalist Rally at Rock Creek

Park at Erwin, TN. A crowd of 150 persons turned out to

hear Dr. Copeland and myself share the main speaker

slot around an evening campfire. My naturalist friends

were giving me a terrible time about how "Copeland" was

going to just humiliate me with his scientific presentation

and I would be blabbering with my little nature talk on

birds. I was nervous when I rose to give a talk on "Birds of

Prey" and all about our banding nestling horned owls and

big hawks and a Golden Eagle on Roan Mountain. The crowd

was responsive and showed great appreciation. I was relieved.

Then "Copeland" took the main speaker's position

and showed a canned 16mm black-and-white movie about

how bees pollinate. You can imagine I was thrilled and

made my buddies eat their words. It was not that he couldn't

do better, he simply brought a film he felt everyone would

enjoy and understand. No harm but much fun.

He also was the chair of the department when I was able to

arrange to get him to receive the 3,092 bird egg collection

in 637 clutches (sets) and representing 392 species of North

American birds made by Bob Lyle of Johnson City just before

Lyle passed away with a heart attack in June 1971. Lyle was

in terrible failing health and had become devastated that he

could not get anyone to take his proud and valued egg collection.

I promised him I would someday get it done. Dr. Copeland

and I negotiated a two-page contract 27 November 1967

and met to sign it 18 February 1970. I had moved the many

large and heavy boxes to my home in Bristol. Dr. Copeland

provided faculty, transportation, specimen cabinets and space

for the collection to be moved back to Johnson City and put

in the permanent collections of the biology department.

ETSU still has and sometimes uses those eggs for teaching.

Dr. Copeland was a Fellow of the Tennessee Academy of Sciences

and was also a Danforth Foundation Fellow. Other professional

affiliations included the American Association for Advancement

of Science; Biological Society of Washington; American Institute

of Biological Sciences; American Society of Zoologists; Association

of Southeastern Biologists; Tennessee Academy of Science; Society

of Systematic Zoology; American Association of University Professors;

American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education; Tennessee

Education Association; National Association of Biology Teachers;

National Science Teachers Association; Sigma Xi; Fellow, National

Science Foundation; American Men of Science; Who's Who in South

and Southwest; Leaders in American Science; Dictionary of

International Biography; Who's Who in Arkansas; Community

Leaders of America.

A native of McGehee, Arkansas, he was the son of the late H. P.

and Pearlie Copeland.

He was a 1947 graduate Ouchita Baptist University and received

his Master's degree from George Peabody College in 1950 and

the PhD degree from the University of Tennessee.

At the time of his retirement from ETSU, Dr. Copeland was asked

to donate his research to the Smithsonian Institute where it

currently resides in permanent collection.

Dr. Copeland was a WWII veteran, having served in the U. S. Navy

as a Pharmacist's Mate, and participated in four major invasions

including Saipan, Leyte, Luzon, and Okinawa in the South Pacific.

He subsequently served as an officer in the Naval Reserves prior

to his honorable discharge in 1956.

Dr. Copeland's hobbies included woodworking, motorcycling,

and flying his airplane.

He was a member of the American Legion, Lifetime member

of the Johnson City Masonic Lodge, ETSURA, Central Baptist Church,

and William R. Rigell Sunday School Class.

Dr. Copeland is survived by his wife of 65 years, Jean Scott Copeland,

daughter Dr. Rebecca Copeland, Johnson City, son Mr. Scott Copeland,

League City, TX, and daughter-in-law Sherree Copeland, as well as

several nieces and nephews.

A celebration of life service is planned at 1:00 p.m. for Friday, June 26,

at Central Baptist Church.

The family will receive friends from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in the church

atrium with services to follow at 1:00 p.m. in the sanctuary. Burial will

follow at Monte Vista Memorial Park. Honorary pallbearers will include

President Paul Stanton, Mr. Roy Dellinger, Dr. Dorman Stout, Mr. Bobby

Upchurch, Mr. Jimmy Starr, Mr. Dennis Powell, Ms. Rosemary Whitson,

Ms. Marshia Adams, Ms. Jan Showalter, Ms. Deborah Tyree, Mr. James

Allen Scott, Rev. Willard Warfield, William A. Coleman, Jr. Capt. USN, Ret.,

and the William R. Rigell Sunday School Class. Active Pallbearers include

Mr. Gary Rosenbaum, Mr. Harold Licht, Dr. Buddy Stribling, Mr. Tim Fann,

Mr. Tony Martin, Mr. Rich Mutton and Dr. Ken Olive.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations be made to

Central Baptist Church Music Ministry in care of Mr. Tony Martin.

A special thanks goes to all of Dr. Copeland's caregivers at Christian Care

Center, Johnson City, TN.

Online condolences may be made via: www.morrisbaker.com.

Morris-Baker Funeral Home and Cremation Services, 2001 E. Oakland

Avenue, Johnson City, TN 37601 is serving the Copeland family. (423)

With warm and respectful memories . . . .


Bristol, TN

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  • » [Bristol-Birds] Dr. Tom Copeland, a teacher and great friend, dead at age 94. - BBC Net