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Dr. Harry Gorgas Michener Jopson

Dr. Harry Gorgas Michener Jopson died on March 9, 2012, in Bridgewater, VA.

Born in Philadelphia on June 23, 1911, he was the son of Dr. and Mrs. John H. Jopson (Susanna Bell Michener). Harry graduated from Penn Charter School and Haverford College (class of ’32), and in 1936 received his PhD in zoology at Cornell, where he specialized in herpetology. In 1933 he married the former Hope Power Wilson, who predeceased him in 1992.

Prior to World War II, Harry served in the Virginia Militia. From 1943 to 1946, as Assistant Director of Overseas Operations in the United Seamen’s Service, he was responsible for providing support services for merchant seamen across North Africa, the Middle East and Italy.

Dr. Jopson taught biology at Bridgewater College for 45 years. In 1950 he became chairman of the biology department and was honored with the H. G. M. Jopson Chair of Biology when he was named professor emeritus in 1981. He was very proud to have mentored more than 150 doctors of medicine and dentistry as well as teachers and business majors. He taught at the University of Virginia’s Mountain Lake Biological Station for 15 summers, authored several scientific papers and discovered a previously unidentified salamander. A classical biologist, he was also interested in ornithology, entomology and ecology. Many times people would show up at the door with a specimen of plant or animal for him to identify.

“Doc,” as he was called by his students, coached track and field and cross-country teams, reviving the program, which had been in hiatus for six years, in 1938. The Bridgewater College athletic complex was renamed Jopson Field in 1971. He led his teams through two dozen undefeated seasons and state and conference titles, and was named Old Dominion Conferences Track Coach of the Year from 1978 to 1981.

Dr. Jopson served for many years on the Bridgewater town council and, from 1957 to 1976, on the Rockingham County School Board. The highly successful Massanutten Vocational-Technical Center was established while he was chairman of the board. A communicant of Emmanuel Episcopal Church, he served as vestryman and warden and on many committees. He was a trustee of the Planters Bank of Bridgewater, chairman of the North River Watershed Commission, and head of the committee to build a levee in cooperation with the Army Corps of Engineers after a devastating flood in 1949.

Harry and Hope took four trips to East Africa: two hunting safaris, and two photographic safaris with students. He was an avid fly fisherman, and many summers found him at Pocono Lake Preserve in Pennsylvania, where he was a member of the Swiftwater Preserve fishing club. Survivors include two daughters, Mrs. Philip H. Bulken (Leslie H. Jopson) of Bridgewater and Mrs. Richard J. Mercer (Harriet A. Jopson) of Dover, MA; two grandsons, Edward J. Bulken of Canastota, NY, and James J. A. Mercer of Brooklyn, NY; and three step-great-grandsons.


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