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Columbia Missourian

David Jonassen was award-winning professor of educational psychology

By Julie Owens
December 4, 2012 | 8:49 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — David H. Jonassen was a distinguished professor, avid mountain climber and follower of gospels. He was a true man of action.

"I enjoyed talking with Dave because he was so knowledgeable, he traveled a lot and knew people personally from many different areas," said Jonassen's co-worker, David A. Bergin, associate professor and director of MU's Educational Psychology program.

"It was fun to see who he was talking to, what he was doing and the theories he found significant," Bergin said.

David H. Jonassen of Columbia died Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012, after a two-year-long battle with advanced stage lung cancer. He was 65.

Mr. Jonassen was born Sept. 14, 1947, in Salem, N.J., to William and Fleta Jonassen.

He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Delaware in 1970 and 1972, respectively, and his doctorate in educational media and educational psychology from Temple University in 1976.

Mr. Jonassen held professorships at Pennsylvania State University, the University of Colorado-Denver and the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. He worked as a professor of learning technologies and educational psychology at MU since 2000. In 2010, he was named curator's professor, the university's highest honor for world-renowned scholars.

"I've made many mistakes in my life, but my choice of career wasn't one of them," was a common phrase Mr. Jonassen was known to say.

His scholarly record reflected this statement. Over a nearly 40-year academic career, Mr. Jonassen wrote 37 books, 182 journal articles and 67 book chapters, along with numerous other types of publications. He made 400 presentations in the United Sates and 28 other countries. Mr. Jonassen was also invited as a visiting scholar in countries such as Australia, Austria, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore and the United Kingdom. His work attracted more than $12 million in external funding from sources such as the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, the Australian Research Council, NATO and the European Union.

"He was competent and well known in many domains, including cognitive psychology, technology and instructional design," Bergin said. "He was curious about how people think and how to present information through technology. He pushed his students to argue from evidence and make statements supported by research and fact."

Mr. Jonassen received more than 40 scholarly awards, including 19 awards for outstanding publications and books, the 2001 Presidential Service Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Research and Theory, both for Association for Educational Communications and Technology.

Recently he was nominated and selected to become a Fellow of the American Education Research Association and was the first recipient of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology's David H. Jonassen Award for Excellence in Research, established in his honor.

Aside from his scholarly work, Mr. Jonassen was an outdoorsman who enjoyed hiking, particularly in Colorado. During the 17 summers he and his wife, Rose Marra, spent in Colorado — including this past summer — Mr. Jonassen climbed 50 of the 54 famous "fourteeners" peaks, which are more than 14,000 feet in elevation. He attributed his love of high places to his Norwegian heritage.

Mr. Jonassen was an active member of the St. Thomas More Catholic Newman Center and numerous professional societies.

Mr. Jonassen is survived by his wife, Rose Marra, of Columbia, a daughter, Cristen Jonassen Underwood and her husband Eric, of Westminster, Colo., brothers Stephen of Chicago, and William of Clearwater, Fla., a sister, Susan Shultz, of Columbus, Ind., a grandson Alexander, nieces Kirsten, Caitlin and Anna, and nephew Brandon.

His parents died earlier.

A funeral mass will be celebrated at noon Saturday at the St. Thomas More Newman Center, 602 Turner Ave. A visitation luncheon at the the Newman Center will immediately follow. 

In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions to Catholic Charities of America, the American Cancer Society and to the newly founded David H. Jonassen Scholarship

Online condolences may be left for the family at