in memoriam

Rev. James Hammerlee

A black and white portrait headshot photograph of Rev. James Hammerlee (Former Bucknell chaplain, steadfast student supporter and lover of the arts) grins in a business suit and tie attire style

Photo: Special Collections/University Archives

Former Bucknell chaplain, steadfast student supporter and lover of the arts Rev. James Dean Hammerlee died Nov. 26, 2022, in Meadville, Pa., at age 92.

In 1966, Hammerlee began a prolific 26-year career at Bucknell. Over the course of his tenure, he served as executive secretary of the Christian Association (CA); adviser to international students; director of student activities and the University Center; coordinator of cultural events and summer conferences; director of the Weis Center for the Performing Arts; University chaplain; and assistant to the president. He received the Burma-Bucknell Bowl Award in 1978 in recognition of his outstanding contributions.

As a pastor, Hammerlee officiated many Bucknell weddings, including Jim Morrell ’74 and Karen Olsson Morrell ’74, who established a scholarship in Hammerlee’s honor in 2000. The Morrells developed such a lasting relationship with Hammerlee that both of their daughters (including Katherine Morrell Munneke ’04, who married Ryan Munneke ’04) requested he officiate their weddings.

“Jim always had his door open and a pot of coffee going,” Karen says. “He was welcoming, enthusiastic and positive, so you just wanted to spend time with him and get on board with whatever he was doing. He and his wife, Betty, always invited students into their home. After we graduated, we kept in touch with them and visited regularly. He was part of some of the most special occasions of our lives.”

The Class of 1970, who were first-year students when Hammerlee arrived at Bucknell, dedicated its 1970 yearbook to him, writing, “He is one of the warmest, most understanding, least pretentious human beings [we] have ever met. His work with Bucknell students in the CA, his enthusiasm and his concern for active, interpersonal involvement all serve to provide each BU student with the opportunity to give of himself, expecting no other satisfaction than that of working, doing and caring with other people.”

Off campus, Hammerlee volunteered for the Lewisburg Prison Project and Habitat for Humanity. He served as president of the Lewisburg chapter of the Arc, an organization that supports people with intellectual disabilities. An avid singer, Hammerlee performed in various choirs in Lewisburg and beyond, was a lifetime member of the Barbershop Harmony Society and sang with Bucknell friends in a foursome called The Academic Quad.

Born in Polk, Pa., Hammerlee earned a bachelor’s degree from Grove City College in 1952 and a master’s from Yale Divinity School in 1958. Following his Grove City College graduation, Hammerlee enrolled in a Methodist Church program that was a precursor to the Peace Corps. While stationed in Pakistan, he taught English to village students and worked in a hospital.

Hammerlee is survived by his wife of 59 years, Elizabeth Snyder Hammerlee, three children, four grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and his brother, Bob Hammerlee, a former men’s tennis coach at Bucknell.