Tennessee Alumnus

Butterflies, the Big Bopper, and Other News

Butterflies, the Big Bopper, and Other News

Butterflies in Words and Pictures

Butterflies, a new book with text by Dave Badger (Knoxville ’87), is “more than a pretty face.” The gorgeous photos by Brian Kenney are showstoppers, but Badger’s writing is just as arresting.

“It took me about a year and a half to research the book since I had no entomological or butterfly expertise whatsoever, and another year and a half to write and revise the text,” says Badger, a professor of journalism at Middle Tennessee State University. The book is available from Voyageur Press.

He weaves a cultural history of the ephemeral creatures, describing their physical characteristics and behavior, butterfly–human relations, conservation, and the art of photographing butterflies.

Badger taught journalism at the former UT Nashville campus, where he met photographer John Netherton, with whom he collaborated on books about the Great Smoky Mountains and Big South Fork, as well as four other volumes–Frogs, Frogs Worldlife Library, Snakes, and Lizards. Badger says he and Kenney are considering other book projects, perhaps about animal communication or avian acoustics.

Big Bopper Redux

It’s been immortalized by singer-songwriter Don McLean as “the day the music died.” February 3, 1959, was the day that 28-year-old Jiles Perry “J. P.” Richardson (“The Big Bopper”) perished along with rock superstars Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens when their Beechcraft Bonanza crashed minutes after takeoff from the Municipal Airport in Mason City, Iowa.

This spring, Professor Emeritus William “Bill” Bass, a renowned forensic anthropologist and founder of the Body Farm, was hired by Richardson’s son, 47-year-old Jay Richardson–a musician known as “The Big Bopper Jr.”–to help solve some of the long-standing mysteries behind that rock ‘n’ roll tragedy.

Bass, along with documentary maker Jon Jefferson–with whom he has written three books–will travel to Texas to examine the Big Bopper’s exhumed remains in early March. The body is being exhumed so that it can be moved to a more prominent grave site in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Beaumont, Texas.

“I’m not sure how much the family learned about the accident when it happened. They just need some closure,” Bass said. “So, I’m going to examine the remains and give them all of the information that I can.”

Jay Richardson said he wants to know if his father died in the crash, or whether he survived the impact and then died as he struggled to leave the scene to get help. He’s also curious about rumors involving foul play that cropped up after Buddy Holly’s gun was found at the crash scene. “I want to know if what they said happened to my father really happened to my father,” he said. “I’ve been hearing these rumors for twenty years. Let’s put them to sleep while we have the opportunity.”

Bass said he plans to X-ray everything recovered from the grave. The bones could yield information about some of the injuries he sustained, and if J. P. Richardson was shot, the remains could hold the bullet or “lead spatter” peeled from the bullet, he said.

Jay Richardson said he knows Bass’s investigation might not answer all, or any, of his questions. But then again, it might. And that’s why, although he expects it to be emotionally wrenching, he has to do it. “It’s not going to bring dad back,” he said. “But this crash was a big part of history. And the facts ought to be cold and correct.”

Fat Camp

Does your pet need a trip to fat camp? Indoor living, sedentary lifestyles, and high fat content in pet foods contribute to obesity in dogs and cats. The College of Veterinary Medicine is on top of this weighty issue with its obesity management program.

The college’s Veterinary Nutrition Service can treat animals as either outpatients or inpatients at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Knoxville. Patients’ diet and exercise are monitored by nutrition specialists to help them achieve optimum weight. For more information call 865-974-8387.

Come Sail Away

When Mike Sullivan retired from UT last year, he set sail–literally–on a new adventure. Sullivan and his wife, Pat, sold their house and many of their belongings and embarked on an open-ended journey aboard their boat, Irish Ayes, a 1986 44-foot Gulfstar Motor Cruiser. The Sullivans cruised down the Tennessee River to the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, which took them to Mobile Bay and on to the Gulf of Mexico. They sailed south, then cut east across Florida on the Okeechobee Waterway.

After Thanksgiving they headed northward to Cocoa Beach and saw the launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery. “The launch is about four standard deviations more exciting to watch and hear from close up than it is on TV,” Sullivan said. “We were speechless.” Next they cruised to Key West and the Bahamas. This spring they’ll sail up the East Coast to New York City. From there, they’ll go up the Hudson River and through the Erie and Oswego canals. They plan to “Great Lakes hop” for a while before sailing to Chicago and heading back toward Tennessee via the Illinois, Mississippi, and Ohio rivers.

“Once we get back to the Tennessee River, we’ll have to decide–do we go back home or do it again?” Sullivan said, adding that he has friends who embarked on a similar trip 5 years ago and haven’t returned to dry-land living since.

Sullivan said the idea for his maritime adventure came from the book Honey, Let’s Buy a Boat: A Cruising Adventure of America’s Great Loop, by Ron and Eva Stob, a California couple who took a yearlong journey on a 40-foot trawler. Like many retirees, Sullivan is enjoying having no daily schedule and no boss. Another highlight? “Seeing something different every day,” he said.

To read more about the Sullivans’ trip, visit their blog at http://thevoyageofirishayes.blogspot.com.

Pack Up and Go

Broaden your horizons with a UT alumni tour. The Italian Lake District, the Canary Islands, and Ukraine are among the offerings for later this year. Check out the entire itinerary of first-class trips at www.utalumni.tennessee.edu/Tours2007.html. If you have questions, contact Kris Phillips (kris-phillips@tennessee.edu) or Ginny Snow (gsnow@utk.edu). You don’t have to be an alumnus to participate.

UT Martin Houses Reelfoot Memorabilia

Wintfred Smith made his mark as a UT Martin biology professor. But future generations might remember him better as a Reelfoot Lake scientist and historian. His career-long fascination with the Northwest Tennessee lake has resulted in a personal collection of materials that Smith has donated to UT Martin’s Paul Meek Library.

Richard Saunders, curator and university archivist, describes the Reelfoot Lake material as collectively irreplaceable. “It makes sense that the largest collection of data regarding the lake would remain in the institution closest to it,” he said.

Smith retired from UT Martin in 2001. He first saw Reelfoot Lake in 1963 while taking a graduate course at Tennessee Tech. Reelfoot’s visual impressions, its tranquility, and its remoteness appealed to him. “It struck me as a primeval place. I thoroughly liked it then, and I thoroughly like it now,” he said.

He began collecting Reelfoot materials and information in the middle 1970s. The collection includes photographs, publications, and taped interviews. Unique items include a 1915 booklet about duck-hunting and fishing at Reelfoot Lake. The book describes the lake freezing over in 1912 “and cracking on occasions so loudly that the ice crack could be heard all the way to Hornbeak,” about 15 miles away.

Smith continues his quest for more Reelfoot material. He searches eBay and says he frequently spots Reelfoot items. “Vintage photographs are still regularly coming to light in Lake and Obion counties, and I’m absolutely certain that there are many more out there.”

Abso-BLOOMING-lutely Gorgeous

How many times have you planted a healthy, handsome plant in late spring, only to see it fry and die in the heat of summer? The UT Trial Gardens can help prevent such gardening goofs. Each year, the Trial Gardens in Knoxville and Jackson, Tennessee, test plants and report the winners. Last year’s best in show was New Guinea impatiens “Kokomo Petite Scarlet,” and the best new variety was Cuphea “Flamenco Samba” from Proven Winners. The entire list of top performers is on the Web at http://utgardens.tennessee.edu/trials.html.

UT’s is one of 34 All-America Selections test sites that rank plants on their heat and cold tolerance, flower production, plant uniformity, flower and plant size, pest resistance, and landscape appeal. The gardens are part of UT Extension, and the director is Dr. Susan Hamilton.

UT Martin Chancellor Retiring

Describing his job as “the most wonderful honor of my life,” Dr. Nick Dunagan, University of Tennessee at Martin chancellor since April 2001, has announced his retirement. He will remain as UT Martin’s chief executive officer until his successor is chosen, with his official retirement effective in June.

Dunagan and his wife, Cathy, both UT Martin graduates, will remain in Martin and “be the most dedicated alums that this institution could have,” he said. Dunagan began work at UT Martin in 1973 as director of development. Before becoming chancellor, he filled the posts of executive vice-chancellor, vice-chancellor for student affairs, and vice-chancellor for development and administration.

He also served as interim chancellor three times (1985-86, 1997-98, 2000-01), and he currently serves as the executive director of WestStar, the university’s regional leadership program for West Tennessee. He is a member of economic development councils for both Weakley and Obion counties, serves on the Volunteer Community Hospital board of trustees, and co-chairs the board for the Weakley County Reading Railroad.

In addition to a 1968 UT Martin degree, Dunagan earned a law degree from the University of Missouri in 1971 and a doctorate in higher education administration from Vanderbilt in 1990. He is a retired colonel in the Tennessee Army National Guard and an active member of Martin First United Methodist Church. He is a native of Caruthersville, Missouri. The Dunagans have four grown children and four grandchildren. The three married children and their spouses all graduated from UT Martin.