James Jucker, Stanford industrial engineer, dies at 74

From an early fascination with computers to a role as adviser and confidante, James Jucker's teaching career at Stanford spanned three decades.

James Jucker portrait

James Jucker began his Stanford career in the 1960s when he taught some of the earliest computer programming classes.

A memorial service will be held Monday, June 27, for James Jucker, a retired industrial engineering professor and former associate dean of the School of Engineering.

The service will begin at 2 p.m. at Memorial Church. A reception will follow from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Arrillaga Alumni Center.

Jucker died of complications of lymphoma and heart disease on May 4 in Bayonet Point, Fla. He was 74.

Jucker earned his bachelor's degree at Pennsylvania State University in 1959 and his master's in industrial engineering from Montana State University two years later. He taught at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst from 1961 to 1962, and first came to Stanford in 1963 as a PhD candidate. While pursuing his doctorate, he served as an acting assistant professor of industrial engineering until he received his degree in 1968.

Fascinated with computers, Jucker dropped an earlier passion – the clarinet – and immersed himself in the emerging field of computer technology. As an acting assistant professor, he taught some of the earliest computer programming classes.

"He was interested in all things mechanical and the way things worked," Jucker's widow, Jo Anne Freeman, said. "Computer programming is an art as much as a science, and he had as much art in him as he did technology. He had the ability to understand the implications of what computers could do, and he was very excited about it."

After earning his doctorate, Jucker learned Portuguese for a job teaching industrial engineering at Pontificia Universidade Catolica in Brazil for two years before joining the faculty at Harvard Business School from 1970 to 1972.

He returned to Stanford in 1972, where he taught in the industrial engineering and engineering management department (now the Department of Management Science and Engineering) until his retirement in 2002.

As Jucker's academic interests grew, he focused on production and operation management and zeroed in on ways to improve the efficiency of manufacturing systems and organizations.

As chair of the industrial engineering and engineering management department, Jucker pushed to include faculty from other disciplines – most notably psychology and sociology – to offer different perspectives on the study of organizations.

He also served as the engineering school's associate dean for student affairs, gradually taking on a greater role as a mentor and adviser to students.

"Jim never criticized anybody and never raised his voice," Freeman said. "But people really listened to him. He managed to do the bulk of his intellectual work early in his career, and later on he really enjoyed his role as an adviser and was the heart of the department."

In addition to Freeman, who lives in San Luis Obispo, Jucker is survived by his mother, Lucille Jucker of Arcadia, Fla.; his sister and brother-in-law, Janice and Allen Horton of Arcadia; his daughter, Jennifer McKie of Mountain View; and two grandchildren. He is also survived by several nieces and nephews, great-nieces and nephews, and aunts and uncles.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to the Department of Management Science and Engineering.