Cover photo for James Biggar's Obituary
James Biggar Profile Photo
1928 James 2012

James Biggar

June 22, 1928 — January 30, 2012

After a short illness, with family present, Jim passed away peacefully to the Lord. He is preceded in death by his daughter Marnie Jane and brothers Bruce (Shirley), Ralph (Faith) and sister Vivian McAdam (Tom). He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Beverley; his son Tim (Marcia) Biggar; daughters Laura Biggar and Robin (Brad) Smith; grandchildren Kalyn, Melanie, Tori, Joshua and Thomas; brother John Biggar and sister Margaret Biggar; as well as 23 nieces and nephews. His family, friends and neighbors will miss his encouragement, patience, helpfulness, compassion, gentleness and warm smile. He was a loving husband, father, grandfather, uncle and friend. James W. Biggar, professor emeritus at U.C. Davis, was always a hard and dedicated worker who received recognition professionally for his pioneering contributions to the study of soil and water science and for his personal contributions to the community, but he remained a humble man, a man of God. Jim faithfully served The Lord as a member of the Davis Community Church, as an elder and member of the board of directors. He also served as a board member on the Cal Aggie Christian Association and Young Life. Jim Biggar was born to Murray C. and Stella Phibbs Biggar, the fourth of six children. Jim grew up on a small farm between Hagersville and Jarvis, Ontario, Canada which his family still owns and runs. He began school in a one room school house. After finishing high school, Jim attended Ontario Agricultural College, now part of the University of Guelph. While working through college he met his future wife, Beverley. After graduating with a Bachelors degree in Chemistry in 1951 and marrying Bev they moved to Logan, Utah where Jim studied at Utah State University. There he earned his Masters degree in soil physics in 1954 and completed his Ph.D. in soil physics in 1956. After graduating Jim worked for Texas A&M in Weslaco, Texas as an associate soil physicist. In 1957 Jim was hired to the staff of the Irrigation Department at U.C.Davis as an assistant irrigationist. He studied how to increase crop production with water application, and how to minimize fertilizer and pesticide pollution. His research with his long time colleague and friend, Don Nielsen, helped to lead to the development of the west side of the San Joaquin Valley as a major agricultural production area in California. Much of the research they did resulted in increased food production and the reduction of pollution globally. Jim was an extraordinary teacher who brought wisdom and knowledge to the classroom with an inspirational sense of humor. He was always committed to his students, before and after completion of their studies, and throughout their careers. With his teaching excellence recognized by his departmental colleagues, he was soon appointed as a lecturer and subsequently promoted to associate professor and later to professor and water scientist within the college. He regularly taught three upper division classes. His graduate level course, Advanced Topics in Water Chemistry, was truly exceptional. Each year he would supplement those courses by offering group study courses designed to meet the special needs of his undergraduate and graduate students. He served as the advisor for two undergraduate majors, renewable natural resources and soil and water science, and the advisor for two graduate degree programs, soil science and ecology. Jim attracted graduate students and postdoctoral scholars from around the world. He enthusastically shared the supervision of more than 60 M.S. and Ph.D. students and more than 100 international postdoctoral and sabbatical scholars. Jim became an internationally renowned scientist for his contributions in such subjects as chemical transport in soils, spatial variability of field soils, nitrogen pollution from agricultural operations, description and field scale measurement of hydraulic properties of soils, and determining the impact of soil and irrigation management on soil microbes. In addition to teaching and research, Jim provided services throughout his career to state, national and international agencies and professional societies. He was an editor, member, chair, and involved in hundreds of committees, appointed and elected positions, meetings and conferences, reviews, invited presentations, consultations, and related activities. He guided, challenged, moved, supported and inspired people and organizations alike. For his visionary leadership, he received numerous honors, awards and resolutions that include American Society of Agronomy Fellow, Soil Science Society of America Fellow, and the Soil Science Research and Distinguished Service Awards of the Soil Science Society of America. Upon Jim's retirement from the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, the UC Kearney Foundation of Soil Science sponsored an International Vadose Zone Hydrology Conference held in Davis and published its proceedings in a book to honor his professional collegiality, insight, impact and legacy. Jim loved learning and was a life-long student as demonstrated by his large, eclectic collection of books. It was not unusual for him to be reading two or three books at a time. He also loved cross country skiing, hiking, creating and fixing things around the house and cabin, bike riding, listening to classical music and Broadway tunes. Returning to Canada to see his relatives and friends was one of his favorite trips, as was visiting his children and grandkids. Being with his sweetheart Bev was always his priority. A memorial service will be held for James W. Biggar, at 2 p.m. Saturday, February 18 at the Davis Community Church, 412 C Street, Davis, Ca. A reception will be held following the service in Fellowship Hall. In lieu of flowers please donate to Davis Community Church or to the Truckee Donner Land Trust.

Previous Events

Saturday, February 18, 2012
2:00 AM
Davis Community Church

412 C Street
Davis, CA 95616

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