Dr. Jesse Lee Rancifer, was born on June 15, 1936, to the late Theodore Rancifer, Sr. and Verine Rancifer on Wolfe Project Community located near the cities of Tillar and McGehee. He was the 3rd of six children born to that union. After enduring a lengthy illness with great courage, Jesse entered into eternal peace surrounded by loving family very early Saturday morning, May 21, 2022, in Little Rock, Arkansas. Jesse was a much beloved husband, father, son, brother, uncle, neighbor, friend, educator, volunteer and a active contributor to every community where he resided.
Jesse attended elementary and high school in Wolfe Project Community and then attended college at Arkansas AM&N now University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), where he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in May 1958 majoring in Mathematics Education and Agricultural Education. He then obtained a Master’s Degree in Math Education from Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama (1972) and a Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum Instruction and Mathematics from Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, in May 1978. His dissertation was “An investigation of Attitudes Toward Mathematics Determining the Election or Non-Election of College Preparatory Mathematics of Secondary Black and White Students.” Dr. Rancifer often said, “Minds are thirsty for knowledge. Let’s quench the thirst.” So, he began his teaching career in 1958 in Rison, Arkansas, where he met his wife, Jo Marva, who was also a teacher there. From 1964 –1976, he taught trigonometry and calculus at Southeast High School and then Pine Bluff High School, both located in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Following receipt of his Doctorate Degree, he moved to UAPB where he served as Assistant Professor of Secondary Education, Assistant to the Dean for the UAPB College of Education (1980-1983) and Coordinator of Student Recruitment.
In 1984, Dr. Rancifer was recruited to Little Rock to become the Associate Superintendent of the Little Rock School District, where he served for four years, following which he moved to the University of Central Arkansas in Conway (UCA) Professor where he later completed his career with undergraduate and graduate course instruction.
Dr. Rancifer always served as a champion for the improvement of student academic achievement and racial equity in academic programs. He pursued these objectives not only through the positions that he held but also through his membership and leadership in professional organizations. Such involvement included the Arkansas and National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the Association of Teacher Educators and the Arkansas Education Association – for which he also served as a Vice President for Higher Education: and Chairman for the Community Organization for Poverty Elimination (COPE). The community and civic leadership encompassed service as Chairman on the Little Rock Civil Service Commission. He was also a diamond life member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, for which he held numerous local and national offices – including Undergraduate Advisor at UAPB and at UCA and National Chair of the C. Rodger Wilson Leadership Conference from 1985-1988 (the goal of which is to develop undergraduate leaders). Dr. Rancifer was a long-time member of Faith Presbyterian Church in Pine Bluff. After relocating in Little Rock in 1984, he joined Allison Presbyterian Church, where he served as Clerk of the Session for several terms. He also worked with the Presbytery of Arkansas and represented Arkansas during national conventions. In later years, he participated in LifeQuest and continued to meet new friends.
Jesse and Jo Marva welcomed time with friends and family, generously opening their home, which was always filled with love and laughter – often “destination” spot for many. They willingly took it upon themselves to go extremes to support family members in so many ways – including their educational pursuits. So many of their family members would quickly describe the two of them as “God-sent”, reflecting the positive impact that they had on the lives of their family, friends and students. Jesse played the role of father figure to so many. He as fondly known to many as “Papi.” Even through his illness, Jesse continued to serve in that role and build friendships. He frequently said, “I am a sociable person and never meet a stranger.” This was the mantra that he shared and encouraged all in his path to adopt. Jesse continued to enjoy cooking (especially smoked meats) and receiving guests. In his earlier years, until his health no longer permitted, Jesse especially enjoyed jogging (loved 5k’s and marathon running), sudoku puzzles, traveling, gardening and action movies. Of course, Jesse enjoyed adding life to the party with his joke telling, roasting and toasting. Laughter and smiles provide the daily requirments always.
Dr. Jesse L. Rancifer, Sr. is survived by two children, Jesse L. Rancifer, Jr. and Tracey Camille Rancifer; five granddaughters, Janna Jo Rancifer (Paul) of Houston, Texas; Arielle Bauchman of San Antonio, Texas; Dara Rancifer of Orlando, Fla.; Muriel Rancifer of Houston, Texas; and Gabrielle Celeste Rancifer of Chicago, Illinois; and a great- granddaughter, Reiha Bauchman of San Antonio, Texas. He has one Goddaughter, Kelley Eubanks of Fort Worth, Texas.
He has three sisters, Claudette R. Washington, Perrysburg, Ohio, Linda Louise Panek, McDonough, Ga., and Rose Gardner, Kansas City, Mo,; and one brother, Theodore Rancifer, Jr., Tillar, Ark. He was predeceased by brothers, Cleveland Rancifer and Marshall Rancifer. Dr. Rancifer leaves to cherish his memory a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, extended family and countless close friends.
Family Hour: 5-6 p.m., Sunday, May 29, 2022, Ruffin & Jarrett Funeral Home, 1200 Chester Street, Little Rock, Ark., 501-372-1305. Masks are required. Funeral service will be held Monday, May 30, 2022, 11 a.m., 2nd Presbyterian Church, 600 Pleasant Valley Drive, Little Rock, Ark. Interment: 1 p.m., Pinecrest Memorial Park, 7401 Highway 5 N., Alexander, Ark., 72002, Monday, May 30, 2022. Funeral service will be livestreamed on the Ruffin & Jarrett Facebook Page.