Actually, It’s Bernard

The legendary professor of public administration with the funny nickname is retiring, concluding a career launched in Metro Studies but always most fondly recalled by those in his classroom.

Bernard Jump and Marlene Diamond
On the cusp of his retirement, Professor Bunny Jump kids around with Marlene Diamond, administrative assistant in public administration. Diamond was hired by Jump 10 years ago, when the latter chaired the department.

If you were about to meet a man named Bunny Jump, you’d expect someone jolly and comical. Then, when you actually encountered the man, you’d discover someone who seemed, if anything, just a little gruff.

Over time, both impressions would prove false.

Those close to Bunny Jump, though, view the name as appropriate nonetheless, fitting a man they describe as warm, modest, compassionate, virtuous, and loyal.

“He wears his brilliance well,” says Joe Mareane ’79 MPA, chief fiscal officer for Onondaga County and former Jump student. “He is patient, calm, reassuring, and responsive. Dr. Jump had a wonderful knack for reassuring a bunch of polisci majors that the complexities of public finance are within their reach, and a teaching style that fulfills that promise.”

Jump—whose nickname is, in England, a common diminutive of his actual name, Bernard—will retire at the close of this academic year as professor emeritus and former chair of public administration.

Jump joined Maxwell 28 years ago as a senior researcher in the Metropolitan Studies program, predecessor of the Center for Policy Research. In the mid-1970s, he recalls, it was the “place to be.”

“The Maxwell School was highly regarded and Metropolitan Studies was among the top research institutions for public policy,” Jump says.

"Every successful group needs a calming influence, and he was it. It was an early sign of his special leadership qualities."
Roy Bahl, former research associate, Metropolitan Studies

He became part of what long-time administrative assistant and close friend Esther Gray terms the “Rat Pack of Metro Studies,” consisting of Jump and faculty members Roy Bahl, Jesse Burkhead, David Greytak, Guthrie Birkhead, and Larry Schroeder. They hailed from a variety of academic disciplines but were bound as public policy researchers. In those days, Metro Studies was knee-deep in research related to the bankruptcy and financial bailout of New York City.

“We were in an old house, and it was a hotbed of activity—the most exciting place, with the most energy, you could imagine,” remembers Bahl, now dean of the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University. “We were all young, believed we were never without the correct answer to any question, and were convinced that most administrators were lifelong clowns. Bunny was always the voice of reason and kept us — mostly — out of trouble. I think every successful group needs a calming influence, and he was it. It was an early sign of his special leadership qualities.”

Those qualities were called on particularly in the decade-and-a-half that Jump chaired Public Administration. He set the bar high for the department, but, according to Schroeder, Jump’s leadership style was one of consensus building, alleviating any potential animosity. “He was able to lead the department in a way that decisions could be made seriously, but also civilly,” Schroeder says.

Another long-time member of the department, Stuart Bretschneider, notes that Jump made sure junior faculty were given the resources they needed and that beginning faculty were never pressured to take on additional commitments outside their roles as professors and researchers.

Astrid Merget, who, in 1995, succeeded Jump as department chair, sums up Jump’s tenure in departmental administration. “Bunny worked tirelessly, persistently, and patiently to guarantee a curriculum that was on the cutting edge; to assemble the highest caliber of faculty and staff; to recruit the very best students in successive classes; and to cultivate a professional community of aspiring professionals and scholars,” says Merget, who is now dean of Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

As with any celebrated faculty member, though, the broad and constant measure of Jump’s career is his legacy as a teacher. “Good students who want to learn motivate you,” he explains. He’d made the decision to teach while an undergraduate himself. “I probably would have gone into business,” he says, “if a couple of good professors hadn’t encouraged me to pursue a PhD.”

According to Christine Omolino ’96 MPA, former student and now assistant director of public administration, Jump was a special professor because he was up-front about his expectations, always went above and beyond the call of duty, and treated students as colleagues. He never feared admitting he didn’t know something; he’d promise to find out and get back to you, which he always did. (Jump’s enthusiasm for teaching did not go unnoticed. In 1999, he was selected as Syracuse University Alumni Outstanding Teacher of the Year.)

Amy Kneedler Donahue ’96 MPA/’00 PhD (PA), another former student (now senior advisor to the Administrator for Homeland Security), remembers Jump’s humor. “A moment that few of us will ever forget,” she says, “is the time Bunny donned a sparkling tiara. It was startlingly incongruous — and therefore uproariously funny — to see a man of so much dignity do something so silly. But his subtle humor and ability to laugh at himself are precisely what substantiates his dignity and garners so much respect from so many.”

Although Jump’s teaching days are over, he plans on hanging around a little longer to conduct research. Eventually he and his wife Betsy may make the move to a warmer region and escape the one thing he won’t miss about Syracuse: the snow.

Rachel Roberts

This article appeared in the spring 2004 print edition of Maxwell Perspective © Maxwell School of Syracuse University. To request a copy, e-mail dlcooke@maxwell.syr.edu.