James (Jim) Kaler passed away November 26, 2022 at home. His family is planning a Celebration of Life at 3:30 p.m. Sunday May 7, 2023 at Clark-Lindsey Village, Urbana. All are welcome.
Donations in Jim’s name can be made to the Parkinson’s Disease Association (https://www.apdaparkinson.org/) or Krannert Center for Performing Arts (University of Illinois Foundation/KCPA) in memory of James Kaler.
James (Jim) Kaler, born in Albany, New York December 29th 1938 to Earl and Hazel Holmgren Kaler passed away Saturday 11/26 at home from complications of Parkinson’s Disease. He is survived by his wife Maxine and his children Lauren (Brewer), Bruce, and Lisa (Zak) and his grandchildren Natalie (Brewer), Danielle (Brewer), Sierra (Zak), Marissa (Zak), Avery (Kaler), and Ethan (Kaler). He was preceded in death by his daughter Jill and granddaughter Allison (Zak)
He will be remembered by his children and grandchildren as a silly fun-loving man who could never complete the punchline of a joke.
Jim graduated from Albany High School in 1956. He earned his A.B. at the University of Michigan in 1960. He married Maxine Grossman 4 days after graduation. As an undergraduate he was both a research and teaching assistant. He always enjoyed the fact that he attended 3 graduate Schools in 4 years: Michigan 1960-61, Christian Albrecht (Kiel Germany) 1961-62 (where his first child Lauren was born) and UCLA where he received his PhD in 1964.
Jim had an impressive list of fellowships as graduate student. He was awarded the Rackham First Year Fellowship in 1960. He was offered an NSF Cooperative Fellowship in 1961 which he turned down in order to accept a Fulbright Grant for study at Christian Albrechts University. From 1962–1964 he had a NASA Administration Pre-Doctoral Traineeship while at UCLA
In the summer of 1961, Jim worked as an Astronomer at the U.S Naval Observatory. After graduation in 1964 he joined the Faculty at the University of Illinois where he spent his entire career. His research area, in which he published more than 120 papers, involved dying stars. He was the author of 19 books and countless articles in popular and semi popular magazines He became widely recognized for his appearances in local television and radio. In 1995 he became a member of the Campus Honors Faculty. He held a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in 1972-73, has been awarded medals for his work from the University of Liège in Belgium in 1972 for services and the University of Mexico in 1987 for his research in planetary nebulae. He was an Associate in the University of Illinois Center for Advanced Study in 1987. In 2003 he retired with Emeritus status.
He gave the Armand Spitz Lecture in 1999 to the Great Lakes Planetarium Association, where he became a Fellow in 1995 and the Margaret Noble Address in 2003 to the Middle Atlantic Planetarium Society. In 1997 he was a Visiting Foreign Researcher at Tohoku University in Japan. In 2001 he received the Alpha Lambda Delta Outstanding Teacher of Freshman Award and King Broadrick-Allen Award for Excellence in Honors Teaching. In 2002, Staerkel Planetarium at Parkland College presented him with an Award for Service and the Great Lakes Planetary Association had Dr James Kaler Day at their Wisconsin Conference. In 2003, he received the Campus Award for Excellence in Public Engagement and the Delta Sigma Omicron Distinguished Teaching Award. Asteroid 1998 JK was named 17853 Kaler in honor of his outreach activities. He was awarded the 2008 Education Prize by the American Astronomical Society. In March of 2010 he was profiled in Astronomy Magazine. For many years he was named to the Incomplete List of Excellent Teachers that later became known as the List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent. Over the course of his career he was awarded more than $1.1 million in research grants. The World of Science Lecture Series at Staerkel Planetarium was named for him. The classroom in the Astronomy Building at the University of Illinois was named in his honor. In 2020 he was named an Inaugural Fellow of the American Astronomical Society
Jim was a member of the American Astronomical Society and the International Astronomical Union. He was also a member of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific where he served on several boards and in several positions including President. He was also on the Advisory Board of Staerkel Planetarium at Parkland College. In 2002, the Great Lakes Planetary Association and the Minneapolis Planetarium produced an education planetarium show, The Star Gazer, around Jim and his life as an Astronomer. It was narrated by Nichelle Nichols
Jim operated two main websites, Skylights, which provided weekly information on the sights of the sky, and Stars, which featured the "Star of the Week." Since 1998, the two, along with nearly 30 cognate sites, have received a total of more than eight million visitors.
Music was an important part of Jim’s life. He played the trumpet and the guitar, and he also sang. Jim is a past president the Champaign-Urbana Symphony. He narrated and helped produce a space themed children’s concert. He coproduced and narrated two Summer Solstice Celebrations at Krannert Center and he gave 2 pre-concert lectures for Kronos Quartet in April 2004 and Champaign Urbana Reach for the Stars concert in 2006. He provided the video display of planets for the Simfonia day and Camera concert in 2013. Jim and Maxine were strong supporters of Krannert Center for the Performing Arts as well as Illinois Public Media, the Mark Morris Dance Group, and Champaign Urbana Symphony
Donations in Jim’s name can be made to The American Parkinson’s Disease Association (https://www.apdaparkinson.org/) or Krannert Center for Performing Arts.
Memorial gifts to Krannert Center for the Performing Arts (payable to University of Illinois Foundation with memo note “in memory of Jim Kaler”) can be mailed to Krannert Center, 500 S. Goodwin Ave, Urbana, IL 61801 (Attn: Advancement office) or online krannertcenter.com/giving/invest-now
Condolences may be offered at www.renner-wikoffchapel.com
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