James A. Tucker
Year Started at Paul Smith’s: 1997
I grew up on my family’s potato farm in nearby Gabriels, NY and this hands – on experience on the farm helped shape my devotion to the outdoors and the natural surroundings. As an Eagle Scout, I spent a great deal of free time tromping through the woods on snowshoes, building fires and cooking in the woods, canoeing the ponds, lakes and streams, and taking peers on numerous hiking treks in the Adirondack High Peaks.
I earned a BA in US History from the SUNY – Potsdam with elementary and secondary social studies teacher certification in 1981, and then completed a Masters in School Counseling at Virginia Tech in 1983. I have been married to Michele since 1982, and we have two grown sons Mike and Larry), leaving us with the empty nest.
For over thirty years, I have been an endurance athlete and coach, involved in running, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, duathlons, triathlons, swimming, and canoeing. From 1987 – 1995, I was the Director of the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) – a New York State funded educational program to serve the needs of disadvantaged students at Paul Smith’s College, and continued to involve college students and the campus at large in the out-of-doors. I enjoyed working with students who faced both academic and financial challenges, and this brought a great deal of satisfaction and pleasure.
From 1995 – 2010, I was the “Dean of Fun” at Paul Smith’s College, and has maintained a high level of outdoor programming at the college. Quoted in Newsweek’s “One of America’s Hottest Colleges for 2006, as the Dean of Fun at Paul Smith’s, the college was recognized as the Hottest for Resort Living. “The school’s director of intramural’s calls himself “the Dean of Fun” and organizes hikes in boots, skis and snowshoes.”
I developed the College’s Marathon Canoe Team in 1996, which has become the premier collegiate marathon canoe program in the country. Many of the program’s paddlers were involved in the 425-mile, 15-day Enviro-Trek 2000 in June 2000. The dozen paddlers provided pre-arranged environmental education programs to school age children along the route. Paddling to Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty was awesome and still remains somewhat unbelievable.
The destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11th 2001 has only further cemented the bond among the original Enviro-Trek paddlers, as the group members maintain vivid memories of seeing the World Trade Center from the harbor as we approached the Statue of Liberty. At the end of the 2000 paddling season, Jim was recognized by the St. Lawrence Valley Paddlers (SLVPA) as the recipient of the Rip Friot Award for Dedication to Paddlesport.
Following the success of the inaugural EnviroTrek many of the crew members developed and paddled Enviro-Trek 2001, a 390-mile paddling adventure that traversed New York State along the historic Erie Canal. The eighteen paddlers and two pitcrew members took fifteen days to cover this route beginning in Western New York State just off the shore of Lake Erie and finishing in Stillwater, New York just North of where the Hudson and Mohawk River come together. The group presented almost daily environmental education programs to over 1,200 school children and community groups. Although the Enviro-Trek passed through the cities of Rochester and Syracuse, it was in the many small communities such as Middleport and St. Johnsville that the paddlers received the warmest receptions.
The Enviro-Trek program took on a new life – becoming Earth Trek in ’03, with an academic planning course for the nine students through the spring semester, as they prepared to paddle the 410 miles of the Connecticut River, from the headwaters at the Canadian ~ New Hampshire border, concluding in Long Island Sound. The Connecticut River was the focal point of two academic courses that prepared the student participants for the background work on the prospective waterway including: the history, economic, cultural and environmental issues and concerns of the people along the route. The participating students continued to prepare and implement a series of environmental education programs, plan the itinerary, arrange the various speaking engagements, and all other aspects of the Earth Trek. “I believe it is in this planning and implementation that the students truly learn how to coordinate events and see them through to fruition.”
In the realm of international experiential education, I have really enjoyed the opportunities to work with the international students at Paul Smith’s College, including the Japanese, the Tibetan, and the Italians from the Abruzzo National Park. I have worked closely with Tomoya Yamada (PSC ’02 Liberal Arts grad) in arranging cross cultural experiential programs for Japanese student visitors to the campus, and then followed this up with a week long program for a group of five from the college to do experiential education programs for Hosei University as well as Links Academy in Tokyo. The cross-cultural exchange of ideas was valuable for everyone involved, and Jim has worked to bring international visitors to his family’s potato farm to experience rural farm life in the Adirondacks.
I also conducted a cross cultural exchange trip with two students to Uganda in January 2010, where they were able to work within the national offices for forestry and natural resources, while I became immersed in the Sub-Saharan office of the International Potato Center. We spent four days in the mountains of southwestern Uganda, along the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. The Ugandan potato farmers raise their crops along the terraced slopes of the extinct volcanoes of this region, and practice good crop rotation, and sustainable agricultural practices. Working alongside the Ugandan potato research personnel at their seed potato facility was a great experience to bring back to the students who enroll in The Humble Spud.
I coordinate snowshoe racing in New York State as the President of the Empire State Snowshoe Racing Association (ESSRA), and was recognized by ESSRA in 2003 as the Snowshoer of the Year. I have done design work and consulting for various snowshoe manufacturers, and was on the cutting edge in the development of aluminum-framed backcountry and racing snowshoes for over a decade. As the Director of the Paul Smith’s College Striders, he coordinates the travel and training for both sprint and snowshoe racing for the competitive runners at Paul Smith’s College.
It seems that each successive snowshoe season for the PSC Striders is the “most successful season ever,” and the Striders are maintaining this tradition of continued success. The Striders retained the title as International Snowshoe Champions for the seventh time in the past decade, with the Striders relay teams, distance runners and individual sprinters dominating this international competition. Nearly two dozen members of the Striders took part in the International, and then a similar number took part in US Nationals with a dozen earning medals.
Tucker got back into cycling in 2007 upon request from a student who had a desire to take part in the long distance canoe treks of prior years. Jim had conducted bicycle tours for Adirondack Bicycle Tours through High Peaks Cyclery based in Lake Placid New York and took part in a few triathlons in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s before a devastating injury to his knee in 1994. The traumatic injury all but eliminated running as a recreational pursuit and competitive running seems to have become a thing of the past, but cycling seems to be nearly as good as ever. He took part in the annual RAGBRAI (the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) in 2007, and again in ’08 and 2010 with 10,000 other cycling enthusiasts. The ’07 RAGBRAI was his first venture in Iowa, and the warm hospitality and friendliness of the Iowa people is rather infectious. The copious amounts of home made pies, ice cream as well as the corn and pork products available through the numerous small towns really is attractive as well. 2010 was quite special as Michele joined Jim on this cross-state adventure on a bicycle seat.
I have been involved with the local Franklin – St. Lawrence County Special Olympics since 1997, conducting the Winter Games at the Paul Smith’s College campus with the capable assistance of over three dozen student volunteers. In February 2009, Jim took the next giant step, and was the Chief Field Judge at the World Winter Special Olympics in McCall, Idaho. This was an awesome experience, working with nearly 250 snowshoe athletes from approximately fifty nations. The cultural enrichment, fellowship, and sharing was a life-changing opportunity, and he is looking forward to representing the snowshoe racing community as an official at the World Winter Special Olympics coming up in 2013.
Jim’s love of endurance athletics and competition brought him back into collegiate coaching in the fall of 2009, when he coached the men’s and women’s XC teams at Paul Smith’s College to their most successful season ever. The men’s team won the Sunrise Conference Championship for the fourth consecutive season; and the women’s team placed second for the third consecutive year. The team had six members named to the All Conference Team, while three represented the team at the NAIA Nationals in Vancouver, WA. Jessie Gardner (SR) paced the women’s team as our first invitational winner, taking first at the Southern Vermont College Invitational; and later became the women’s conference champion. The 2010 edition of the program was another giant step forward, with the men’s team placing second at two invitationals; third at the Cross Country Only Championships, and then both teams winning the Yankee Small College Conference (YSCC) Invitational. To top off the season, the men’s team placed third at USCAA nationals, and our women’s team placed fourth ~ both incredible finishes for our first year back in the USCAA.
A licensed guide, trained in Wilderness First Responder, and certified to teach Wilderness First Aid, I teach Lifeguard Training and oversees several emergency medical courses as well as water safety programs at the college. He also encourages students to become involved in the Special Olympics which are annually held at the college as well as numerous outdoor and environmental education programs that he coordinates.
In my spare time, I own and operate Ponderosa Poultry Pharm on our one acre that also includes our home and yard. I feed a colorful flock of hens and a dozen ducks, collect eggs, and enjoy raising flowers and fresh vegetables. I enjoy canning and freezing fresh foods from the garden and enjoying the fruits from the yard.
A message and lifestyle that I try to convey to my students and colleagues goes as follows, “It is truly great to be alive. Convey your zest and enthusiasm to those you encounter. Make today count, not only for yourself, but for others as well. Leave a positive mark and a lasting legacy for those who will follow.”
I was recognized as the 2002 Faculty Member of the Year by the Paul Smith’s College Alumni Association. This was quite an honor, especially given that teaching is only one aspect of my job. I teach Adirondack Expedition and The Humble Spud ~ a cultural anthropology course that chronicles the potato and its relationship to the social history of Europe and the Americas. With the culinary students who enroll, we are exposed to the readily adaptable potato and its uses for all meals and courses at the dinner table.
As an advocate of experiential education and peer education, I often place students in situations that require them to use the skills and knowledge they have, and pass this information on to others. “It is through peer education that students will truly be forced to use what they have learned in the classroom. We can learn through a variety of modalities; and I find that the students at Paul Smith’s College excel with experiential education. We will truly remember something if we have an opportunity to teach. My students are surprised to see what they have learned as they teach these new-found skills to youth groups, school children and corporate groups.”
Interests and Activities
Aquatics, Snowshoe Race Organization, Safety Training, Marathon Canoe Training/Racing, Environmental Interpretive Work, Natural and Human History within the Adirondacks, Nordic Skiing, and Cycling.
I was the Chief Field Judge at the 2009 World Winter Special Olympics in McCall Idaho; conducted a trip to Uganda to further research in potato production in January 2010; and I teach The Humble Spud during the spring semester ~ the only 3-credit undergraduate course devoted to the potato in North America.
1983 MAEd Virginia Tech Guidance & Counseling – Higher Education
1981 BA SUNY – Potsdam US History; M-9 & 7-12 social studies
HUM – 399 The Humble Spud
SOC – 115 Adirondack Expedition
Relevant Work Experience
2009 – Present Paul Smith’s College XC Coach (men and women)
1995 – 2010 Paul Smith’s College Recreation and Intramural Program Coordinator
1989 – 91 Paul Smith’s College Nordic Ski Coach
1987 – 95 Paul Smith’s College HEOP Director
Athletic Director & XC Coach
113 Saunders Sports Complex