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Thomas M. Jordan (1947–2021)

Jordan was first and foremost an educator. His main research interests focused on variable, chemically peculiar and M dwarf stars.

Published onDec 31, 2022
Thomas M. Jordan (1947–2021)

Photo credit: Ball State University.

Updated February 2, 2023

Thomas M. Jordan passed away on Sunday afternoon, February 7, 2021, at the Indiana University Ball Memorial Hospital following a brief illness. He was 73.

Jordan was born on December 31, 1947, in Crawfordsville, Indiana, the son of Morris B. and Edith (Scherer) Jordan.  Tom graduated from Crawfordsville High School in 1965 and served in the U.S. Army as a Sargent during the Vietnam War era, stationed mostly at The Pentagon.  He married the love of his life Teresa (Wrightsman) Jordan on June 30, 1968, in Judson, Indiana. 

Jordan earned his undergraduate degree from Indiana State University (physics, math, Russian) and then went to Stillwater Oklahoma to do graduate work at Oklahoma State University (physics, astrophysics), where he completed M.S. and Ph.D. degrees.  His Ph.D. thesis, “A fine-detailed analysis of the chemical abundances for the peculiar A-star beta Corona Borealis,” was completed in 1977, under the advisement of Leon Schroeder.  For several years afterward, Jordan worked for a railroad company in west central Indiana.  Jordan subsequently accepted a faculty position at Ball State University in the Physics and Astronomy Department, where he spent his professional career and eventually became department chair.

Jordon worked with collaborator Thomas Robertson on red dwarf star research for several years. This collaboration resulted in a paper on emission-line stars (“Faint H-alpha Emission Objects Near the Equatorial Selected Areas,” AJ 1989 98,1354).  Jordan was co-author on about 10 other papers presented at professional meetings.

Jordan was first and foremost an educator and administrator.  He focused on teaching the lower division large enrollment courses such as introductory astronomy, introductory physics and observational astronomy.  With a former student, he authored a workbook “TheSkyX” for observational astronomy and planetarium use which has been through several editions.

During his tenure at Ball State, the department’s astronomy program grew significantly, attracting new faculty, acquiring access to new facilities such as the National Undergraduate Research Observatory, and institutional membership in the Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy.  Initial plans for a new planetarium and science building were also laid.  His main research interests focused on variable, chemically peculiar and M dwarf stars.  The dozen or so papers and meeting presentations completed during the final decade of his career, most with student coauthors, focused on the luminosity function of lower main sequence stars and red giants.  Jordan also was a member of the BSU Variable Star Research Group.  After 35 years of service at Ball State University, Jordan retired in 2016 as Emeritus Chair and Associate Professor. 

Jordan was a member of the American Astronomical Society and American Physical Society.  He was an enthusiastic member of the Morning Tillotson McDonalds Breakfast Club.

He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Teresa; son Christopher Jordan (significant other-Dusty DeVoss) who live in Parker City, Indiana; daughter Cecilie Nunn (husband-Doug) who live in Noblesville, Indiana; grandson Logan Nunn who lives in Fishers, Indiana; grandson Brian Nunn, who lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee; sister Sondra Fish, who lives in Irvine, California; and several nieces and nephews.     

Jordan was preceded in death by his parents Morris and Edith, his brother Cecil Jordan, and his sister Ann Jordan.  His funeral services were held on Saturday, February 13, 2021, followed by burial with Military Honors, accompanied by the Delaware County Honor Guard.

*Some material adapted and reproduced with permission from The Star Press.  Additional information provided by Thomas Robertson

See also Jordan’s AstroGen entry.

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