Jack was born in Canonsburg, PA and grew up in Washington, PA, where he was a scholar and an accomplished athlete, lettering in baseball, football, and basketball in high school. He attended Washington and Jefferson College (W&J) on a basketball scholarship and was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, graduating in 1952.
While at W&J, he worked on the farm of Zabina Weed. Mrs. Weed told Jack that if he stayed and worked on the farm while completing his W&J education, she would provide the financial support he needed to go on to veterinary school. He accepted her generous offer and, in 1956, earned his VMD from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where he was active in the Omega Tau Sigma (OTS) fraternity. When he was able, Jack endowed the Zabina Weed Memorial Scholarship at W&J in honor of Mrs. Weed and her tremendous generosity. The scholarship is awarded to a student in the pre-health program who is from the Washington or Greensburg, PA area and demonstrates a financial need.
While in Philadelphia attending Vet School, Jack met Nell Daughtridge, a nursing student. They married in 1955, raised eight children and enjoyed almost 40 years of marriage prior to her death in 1995.
Upon completion of his veterinarian degree, Jack opened a private practice in Washington, PA. He then worked as a poultry inspector in Oakland, MD for the USDA, before joining a veterinary practice in Honey Brook, PA specializing in large animals. In 1961, he decided to pursue a master’s degree from Iowa State University in Ames, IA, where he also taught classes in the College of Veterinary Medicine. In 1964, he was voted “Professor of the Year” by the students. He earned his master’s degree in 1967.
Upon receiving a special post-doctoral fellowship for the National Institutes of Health, he and his growing family moved to Ithaca, NY so that he could teach at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, where he oversaw the electron microscopy lab for the Department of Veterinary Anatomy. He also pursued his PhD at Cornell, which he received in 1975.
In 1970, the family settled in Athens, GA, where Jack taught at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, conducted research and was instrumental in establishing UGA’s first electron microscopy lab. He taught at UGA for over 30 years, specializing in neuroanatomy and gross anatomy. He served as Head of the Anatomy and Radiology Department for a time, before stepping down to focus on what he loved most–teaching and research. He served as a faculty advisor for the OTS fraternity and became a UGA Bulldog sports fan. He retired in 1998 but continued teaching an introductory anatomy course for several more years, as he especially appreciated the enthusiasm of incoming freshmen. Jack was repeatedly voted a favorite professor and was known throughout the Vet School as “Happy Jack,” a nickname that was bestowed by students and inspired by a brand of dog food. In 2003, he had the joyous honor of “hooding” his granddaughter, Lynne, when she graduated with her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from UGA. He was definitely “Happy Jack” that day!
Following the passing of his first wife, Nell, Jack was so lucky to meet Mary B. Madden on a blind date set up by her daughter, Leandra, who had once worked as an administrative assistant at the UGA Vet School. Jack and Mary married in 1997 and began a life filled with travel and adventure!
Athletics remained an important passion throughout Jack’s life. After his high school and college days, he continued to be active, playing fast-pitch softball, handball, and basketball. Later in life, he became active in master’s track and field events, beginning with racewalking, where he rose to become internationally ranked in his seventies. When he could no longer racewalk, he began competing in discus, shotput, and hammer. He even got Mary competing in shotput at meets throughout the southeast. At the age of 80, he received an All-American Award from USA Track & Field Masters for exceeding standards for his age group in shot put and hammer.
Singing was another passion. Jack participated in his church choir and was quite active in the local Barbershop Harmony Society group for many years. He even wrote and starred in several productions. Many of his closest friendships were formed from within these music groups. Singing and harmonizing were likely to break out at any social gathering!
As you can see, Jack was an accomplished man, but it is nearly impossible to capture in words his quick, wry wit, his warmth, or his humility. He was a sensitive man who was often moved by pieces of music or anytime he tried to say grace, overwhelmed with emotion by the many blessings in his life, many of whom were often gathered around the table with him. If you met Jack, you made a friend. He was much-loved and will be sorely missed.
John F. Munnell was proceeded in death by his parents, Elbert C. Munnell and Virginia G. Munnell; his first wife, Nellie E. Daughtridge Munnell; his daughter, Marcia May Munnell; and his “adopted” stepson, Win Naing.
He is survived by his wife of 25 years, Mary B. Madden Munnell; his children, John F. Munnell, Jr. (Sandy), Virginia Nell Munnell Morris (Tom), Emily Ann Munnell, Amy Louise Munnell, Semanda Sue Munnell (Zoltan Biacs), Matthew G. Munnell (Janet) and Clayton C. Munnell; his stepchildren, William Madden (Elyse), and Leandra Madden Nessel (Kent); his brother Robert Munnell; 16 grandchildren; 8 great-grandchildren and many nieces, nephews, cousins, and other relatives and loved ones.
A service will be held at Chapelwood United Methodist Church on Sunday, May 1st at 3 p.m. The service will be streamed by Bernstein Funeral Home via a link on their website. Jack will be interred at Oconee Hill Cemetery in a private service. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (stjude.org).
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, Tennessee 38105