School of Meteorology Mourns Dr. Jeff Kimpel

School of Meteorology Mourns Dr. Jeff Kimpel

The School is mourning the loss of Dr. James “Jeff” Kimpel, a man whose contributions to the University of Oklahoma and the Atmospheric Sciences are so great, they would be hard to measure. Current and former members of the faculty, alumni, and colleagues have poured forth not only their words of respect for Kimpel but their admiration and personal care for him. He has been described as a leader, a legend, and a luminary. To quote Dean Berrien Moore, “Dr. Kimpel was a distinguished scholar and an absolutely wonderful human being. The planet was made better by his life; his passing challenges us all to continue his voyage.”

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Kimpel completed his bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Denison University in 1964, and then served in the US Air Force in Vietnam from 1967-1968, earning a Bronze Star. Upon the honorable completion of his service and his return to the States, he completed Masters and doctoral degrees in Meteorology from the University of Wisconsin. He joined the faculty of the OU School of Meteorology in 1973. He became the Director of the School in 1981 and was responsible for bringing in a number of distinguished faculty members. He increased the faculty of the School during tough economic times, choosing to dream big and plan while things looked the worst.

In 1987, Dr. Kimpel became Dean Kimpel, leading the OU College of Geosciences. During this time, he also served as President of Applied Systems Institute, Inc. (1985-1988), was made a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society (1989), and served as the director of  OU Weather Center Programs from 1986 to 1994.

In 1992, Dean Kimpel earned another new title: Provost and Senior Vice-President for the Norman Campus. His experience and passion were of great benefit to the University, and in 1997 he took those talents back into the research world, becoming the third director of NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory. In 1998, he became an American Meteorological Councilor, and in 2000 he was elected President of the American Meteorological Society. Kimpel served as NSSL director for 13 years, during which time he led incredible innovations and research accomplishments. When ground was broken for the National Weather Center in 2002, it was with Kimpel as one of its most instrumental champions. He retired from NSSL in 2010; that year he received a United States Congressional Commendation and was recognized by Representative Tom Cole (R-OK) for his service.

The Congressional Commendation wasn’t the first or last award that we could cite of Dr. Kimpel’s. He received OU Regents awards for Superior University and Professional Service, awards from OU Alumni, Denison University Alumni, the American Meteorological Society (including Charles Franklin Brooks Award from the American Meteorology Society in 2016 for his decades of leadership). He authored and co-authored many publications; his research prowess and service also included chairing the National Science Foundation’s Advisory Committee for Atmospheric Sciences, chairing the Board of Trustees for the University Corporation for Atmospheric Sciences, chairing the National Weather Service NCEP Advisory Panel, and serving as a Certified Consulting Meteorologist.

Dr. Jeff Kimpel’s achievements, service, and honors couldn’t possibly be captured in just one short publication; he left an indelible impact on the University of Oklahoma, the Atmospheric Science community, the city of Norman, and the lives of many thousands of people. He will be greatly missed.


Dr. Jeff Kimpel stands before a green background

James F. “Jeff” Kimpel, Ph.D., April 18, 1942 – February 22, 2020

The National Weather Center will be honoring the late Dr. Jeff Kimpel at a reception in the National Weather Center on March 14th, directly following the 11 a.m. memorial service at St John’s Episcopal Church.

Out of an abundance of caution, the family has decided to postpone the memorial reception in the National Weather Center.

A scholarship fund has been established in memory of Dr. Kimpel. More information on how to make a donation to the fund will be shared soon. Contact Leslie Illston,, if you have any questions.







*This article used as sources several articles published by NSSL and OU or state entities over the years, and the historical recordkeeping and sharing work of Ms. Mary Anne Hempe. This information can be found at the following sources: