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John E. "Jack" Sunder

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John E. "Jack" Sunder Jack Sunder was a good and decent man of the highest moral and intellectual integrity. Born in 1928 and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, he received his B.A., M.A., and PhD. from Washington University, St. Louis. After serving two years in the U.S. Army in Korea, he came to the University of Texas in 1956 to succeed Walter Prescott Webb in western history. Besides writing three award-winning books on the Missouri River fur trade, Jack authored a number of journal articles and close to 100 reviews of new books in western history. At U. T., he designed a western history course that highlighted Arctic and Canadian history well before they became popular and taught the first American Indian history course offered by the U.T. history department. A conscientious and meticulous editor, he mentored and guided the work of students at the University of Texas for thirty-seven years. His teaching and students he took seriously-the University, not so much. When asked by a colleague in a chance hallway encounter what new things he was working on, Jack replied, "My back yard." Jack took up birding as a hobby in the '60s and turned it into a passion at which he excelled. He regularly birded central Texas, providing years of data to the Austin checklist committee, Audubon Christmas counts, and birding publications. He was a founding/original member of the American Birding Association and a long time participant in the Austin Christmas Count. He willingly shared his knowledge with others and sought out birders in his courses at the University of Texas. He birded worldwide, including New Zealand, South America, Iceland, and Finland, but valued local birding from Platt's Ponds and the Capitol grounds to Lake Buchanan and High Island. Serious about birding, he never took himself seriously. On one Austin Christmas count, he started the day with "The first bird of the day is a dog". Jack was a member of a number of environmental organizations, notably the Nature Conservancy, and in 2007 became a Life Member of the Sierra Club. He gave several cats from the Austin Humane Society a loving, safe home. For decades he swam close to one mile every other day, most recently at the YWCA. After retiring he immersed himself in genealogical research and traced his ancestry back into the 1700s. He will be sorely missed by friends, neighbors, and colleagues. They don't make them like that anymore. Graveside service will be held at 2:00 p.m., Wednesday, April 6, 2011 at Austin Memorial Park. In lieu of flowers, Jack requested those who wish to contribute to the Texas Nature Conservancy or to the Humane Society of the United States.


Published in Austin American-Statesman on Apr. 6, 2011
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