Historian Jerrell Shofner was a walking encyclopedia of history, remembering stories, dates and places. Shofner was a masterful conversationalist and avid researcher who wrote 15 books, mostly on Florida’s history, and spent more than 25 years at University of Central Florida.
Shofner was known for his grit and work ethic, something he developed in his youth growing up in Texas. At 15, he traveled around the country, harvesting wheat to make a living. After a career in the military, Shofner studied history at Florida State University, where he got his Master’s and PhD.
“When he went to college, he fell in love with history,” said his wife, Frances Shofner of Winter Springs. In his UCF career that began in 1972, he chaired the history department for 19 years and led efforts to recruit the Florida Historical Quarterly to University of Central Florida.
Shofner was tough. “He did not suffer fools lightly,” said a former colleague Richard Crepeau, whom Shofner hired at UCF. His grip was strong. “When you shook his hand, you wanted to check your fingers after to make sure they were still in place,” Shofner advocated fiercely for his department of young faculty members. He was open to innovative ideas — such as offering courses on sports history in the 1970s when most universities weren’t teaching it, Crepeau said.
Besides his long career — which included being president of the Florida Historical Society — he was also loving father of four.
Shofner, Jerrell , Professor Emeritus, passed away April 11, 2017.