By Monica Chapman
Ohio University's Jim Fales will be remembered for his high energy, passion for people and contributions to the field of automatic identification and data collection.
Fales, a Loehr professor emeritus of industrial technology in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, died Sunday at O'Bleness Memorial Hospital due to complications following a massive stroke. Fales, 66, suffered the stroke July 21 while on a mission trip in Romania with his wife, Sharon. He was airlifted to Vienna for treatment before returning to Athens this past weekend.
A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Friday, Aug. 8, at Albany Baptist Church; friends may call one hour prior to the service. Friends also may call from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 7, at Jagers and Sons Funeral Home in Athens.
"Jim was full of energy and had a real zest for life," said Pete Klein, chair of the Russ College's Department of Industrial Technology. "His work ethic and commitment to students as well as alumni serve as a role model for all faculty."
Fales joined Ohio University in 1986 as a professor and chair of the Department of Industrial Technology. He significantly increased the department's involvement with industry and coined the phrase "current and relevant" as a foundation for all decisions: "If it is not current, we are teaching history; and if it is not relevant, why are we teaching it?"
Fales also served as director of the Center for Automatic Identification, which was the nation's first university-based research center devoted to the study of automatic identification and data capture. Founded by Fales in 1988, the lab now supports research and education on topics such as bar coding, magnetic-stripe and voice-recognition technology, and radio frequency identification.
"Under his 20-year leadership, the department made continuous improvements to meet the ongoing needs of students as well as industry," Klein said. "Through Jim's outreach to industry, the department has many business partners that hire our graduates and support our program financially as well as with donations of materials and equipment for student use."
Fales also was the driving force behind the university's Automatic Identification and Data Collection Technical Institute, which was in session at the time of his stroke.
"There is an odd paradox that people from around the world were gathered in Athens, Ohio, for a week participating in a first-class pursuit of knowledge that Dr. Fales established 22 years ago," said Tom Schaefer, a longtime friend and member of the Department of Industrial Technology advisory board.
Among many fond memories, Schaefer recalled Fales' retirement party, in which the guest of honor showed up in a tuxedo -- accessorized by a cummerbund and wallet made of duct tape. A tuxedo was Fales' standard attire for his well-known ventriloquist skit, which he performed on several occasions during dinner at the Department of Industrial Technology's annual advisory board meeting. "We all felt like family, which was Jim's way," Schaefer said of the board.
Fales also was an AIDC-100 member, an honor recognizing 100 individuals who have most significantly contributed to the growth and advancement of the AIDC industry. The organization recognized him as "the pioneer university educator on the subject of AIDC and its use for improvement of productivity."
In 1998, Fales received the AIDC-100's Percival Award, presented annually to an individual or organization and recognizing outstanding contributions in the application of automatic identification and data capture technologies. Fales is the only educator to have received this award.
Considered the first professor in the world to teach a university class devoted to automatic identification, Fales loved teaching and working with students. He also enjoyed following the careers of alumni and frequently would stop by their places of employment for visits and tours. He led the department for 20 years and continued teaching each fall quarter after his retirement. He was named the department's Loehr Professor in 1993 and received the Russ Teaching Award in 2006.
Alumnus Keith Overton, another member of the Department of Industrial Technology advisory board, recalled Fales' knack for motivating students.
"He had the ability to make people want to learn and better themselves -- just something about listening and hearing what you had to say and always having some sort of positive energy level that hovered there when you talked," Overton said. "He seemed to know everyone who came through the department and could recall each one and something personal about them."
Fales also was a prolific writer and speaker. He wrote numerous books on technology, authored many papers, made technical presentations around the world and conducted notable automatic identification and data capture research.
Fales earned doctoral and master's degrees in education from Texas A&M and a bachelor of education degree from the University of Miami. Born in West Palm Beach, Fla., he was the son of Franklin and Ruth Fales. He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Sharon; and four children, Scott, Jennifer, Elizabeth and Mark.
Contributions may be made to the James F. Fales Scholarship fund. Checks should be payable to The Ohio University Foundation, with the memo line reading "James F. Fales Scholarship," and mailed to the foundation, P.O. Box 869, Athens, Ohio 45701.
Updated Aug. 5, 2008.