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December 7, 2020

James R. Preer (PhD '70)

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James R. Preer (PhD '70)
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May 22, 1944-July 20, 2020

Jim Preer, science educator, amateur musician, and resident of 1550 Beacon Street, Brookline, since 2016, died on Monday morning, July 20, 2020, of complications related to Parkinson's Disease and Lewy Body Dementia after a year in the care of Hebrew Senior Life Hospice.

Jim's parents, John and Bertie Preer, were both scientists, and after a stellar undergraduate experience at Swarthmore College, Jim completed a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry at Caltech in 1970. While a graduate student, Jim protested against the war in Vietnam, organized a campus lecture series on the war, and campaigned door-to-door for Eugene McCarthy. His draft board outside Philadelphia granted his application for Conscientious Objector status and allowed Jim to complete his alternative service as a Woodrow Wilson Foundation Teaching Intern at Federal City College in Washington, D.C., a newly established open-admissions school serving a predominantly African-American student body. Finishing his internship, Jim declined a post-doc and a traditional academic career to continue on the faculty of Federal City, now the University of the District of Columbia. At UDC, Jim taught courses in Integrated Science, Chemistry, and Environmental Science, worked on the school's science van, did research on lead in urban gardens, and organized the campus Earth Day observances. He retired from UDC after 33 years, when he and his wife, Jean, moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, where Jim taught science at Ivy Tech Community College and played in the Indianapolis Symphonic Band.

Jim was a serious amateur musician, studying clarinet with a teacher from the Philadelphia Orchestra as well as playing saxophone (in a dance band), recorder, guitar, banjo, autoharp, handbells, and the glass harmonica (while conducting the Preer Family New Year's Eve rendition of Auld Lang Syne). While teaching English in Weifang, China, in summer 2004, Jim accomplished one of his life goals, conducting his 12-year old students singing American favorites. Jim enjoyed musical activities at 1550, especially meeting with the Lesley interns and singing in Singalong with Sid.

Jim's immediate survivors include his wife of 53 years, Jean Lyon Preer, his daughter, Genevieve (Linus Tsai), son, Stephen (Vis Taraz) grandchildren Satchel, Oscar, Audrey, and Nora, and his brother, Bob Preer (Adele Foy). Because of COVID-19, there will be no formal service of remembrance, but Jim's family would welcome socially distant messages of all sorts (1550 Beacon St Apt 10E, Brookline MA 02446), calls (317-417-8771), and email (jpreer@gmail.com).

Donations in Jim’s memory may be made to the Chester Children's Chorus https://www.swarthmorecollege.edu/chester-childrens-chorus or Chester Children's Chorus 112 Park Avenue Swarthmore, PA 19081

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