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Jim Rising 1942 - 2018

Fern Davies

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RISING, James David Born August 10, 1942 in Kansas City, Missouri, died on March 13, 2018, in Toronto, Ontario, from complications following surgery. Jim, as he was known by anyone after first meeting, preferred a t-shirt and jeans to a shirt and tie. He relished his time studying birds in the field, often becoming so absorbed in his work that he forgot his own personal safety, returning home after unsought adventures with bears, scorpions, poisonous snakes, and barely passable roads, from the Arctic to the tropics. He loved his 40 years of teaching at the University of Toronto and his research on the evolution, systematics, and taxonomy of birds, especially orioles and the widespread Savannah Sparrow. His other passions, besides baseball (especially the Toronto Blue Jays) included writing, reading about history, and studying current changes in taxonomy due to new molecular evidence. He served as a member of the American Ornithologists' Union Committee on Classification and Nomenclature and, after retirement from teaching in 2009, remained active in academic organizations, especially the Wilson Ornithological Society.


Outside of work, Jim always went out of his way to spend time with his family. Never a Boy Scout himself as a child, when his sons were scouts, he volunteered to lead Boy Scout trips and to sell Christmas trees to raise funds, organized his schedule around elementary school outings, and got up in the wee hours of morning to drive to youth hockey games. As the neighbourhood scientist - a role that developed from Jim's kind and gregarious personality - he was also regularly called upon to help local children who had found dead or wounded birds or other animals, and once ended up briefly keeping a raccoon named "Bandit" in his basement (the ill-advised pet of an overwhelmed neighbour) until he could relocate it outside the city.


Jim's statistical approach to scientific research spilled over into his love of baseball, and he was an early devotee of author and analyst Bill James's "sabermetric" approach to the game. Jim would combine his two passions, measuring and weighing scientific specimens on a card table while watching baseball, occasionally looking up to question a decision to call for a sacrifice bunt or an ill-advised steal attempt. When a scholarship to assist students in taking field courses was set up in his name by the University of Toronto's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology when he retired, Jim was delighted. He would have appreciated donations to the James D. Rising Scholarship fund. http://www.eeb.utoronto.ca/outreach/support_us/givetoeeb.htm 


Jim will be greatly missed by his wife of 52 years, Trudy; his sons, David (Heather) and John (Darla); his three grandsons (Justus, Nigel, and Fintan), whom he adored; and his brothers, Dean Rising and John Rising. His family invite friends, colleagues, and former students to a gathering in Jim's memory, to be held on Friday, March 23, 2018, from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m., at the University of Toronto Faculty Club, 41 Willcocks Street, Toronto (416-978-6325). Our family wishes to commend the fine and caring staff of Unit 5e of Baycrest Hospital. Their attention to ensuring that Jim's last months of life were comfortable and as stimulating as possible was wonderful. We sincerely thank you.

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