The weather enterprise is mourning the loss of visionary James “Jeff” Kimpel, who passed away early Saturday morning.
Kimpel served in many roles before his retirement in 2010, including as the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory Director, the University of Oklahoma Senior Vice President and Provost of the Norman campus and OU Director of the Weather Center Programs.
He collaborated with the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies on many occasions and valued NOAA’s Cooperative Institutes.
“Cooperative Institutes have many advantages,” said Kimpel at CIMMS’s 40th anniversary in 2018. “CIMMS got off to an early start with some NOAA and OU funding and good things happened — students and faculty were supported, research was supported and things got done. CIMMS really, really helped collaboration between NSSL and OU, particularly the School of Meteorology.”
CIMMS Associate Director Randy Peppler said Kimpel realized the value CIMMS’s adds to Norman’s weather enterprise.
“I think Jeff was one of CIMMS’s biggest fans over the years,” said Peppler. “He realized we would advance the research program and Facebook testimonials that I’ve read support this — Jeff encouraged our young scientists and provided them with the advice and tools to connect the dots both here and in their careers as a whole.”
Kimpel connected people. He was always eager to help students and young professionals find good mentors. CIMMS Research Assistant Jami Boettcher describes Kimpel as having a gift to link people together.
“I’ve never known anyone who had such a gift to knowing how people can link together and recognize someone’s potential,” she said. “He loved people and never tired of talking to students.”
Kimpel encouraged collaboration and led by example. In the early 1980s, he began a series of monthly lunches with Norman weather influencers. The group included Amos Eddy of the then Oklahoma Climate Survey, Ed Kessler of NSSL, Kimpel and Yoshi Sasaki of CIMMS and OU School of Meteorology.
“Jeff believed there was a National Weather Center here long before the actual building because of the collaborations,” Boettcher said.
Peppler said Kimpel welcomed CIMMS representation at NSSL meetings and involved CIMMS’s administration in discussions on the lab’s strategic direction.
“He listened to us and valued our opinions, and deeply cared about how what we do helps not only NOAA, but the university,” Peppler said. “Jeff was the ‘big picture’ guy within the Norman Weather Enterprise, and he knew that CIMMS had to be a big part of anything the enterprise wanted to achieve.”
Kimpel’s memorial service is Saturday, March 14, at 11 a.m. at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Norman, Oklahoma.