A high school chemistry teacher, recognizing Stukel"s potential in engineering, drove James to visit Purdue University. He would later joke, "the University of Illinois wasn"t in his vocabulary, but he took over the decision making process." James enrolled at Purdue and joined the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. To help pay for school, James played saxophone with his dance band, The Spotlighters.
The band played music from Woody Herman, Stan Getz, and other jazz artists.
During the summer, James would play at resorts.
lieutenant was at Purdue that James met his wife Joan Helpling, a majorette with the Purdue marching band. The two toured Europe as members of a variety band.
They would marry during their senior years. Stukel would later comment on his wife, "I been..lucky in that I have a very supportive wife who..influenced the way I developed..in..positive ways." Stukel graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from Purdue shortly after his marriage.
The couple then moved to Virginia.
He earned his Master of Surgery and Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Mr. Stukel"s parents instilled in him a strong work ethic. He would later say, "they were pretty stern regarding my grades and homework..and I always worked." In third grade, James joined the school band. He would practice three to five hours each day on his saxophone.
Of his band experience, he said, "nothing was given.
lieutenant was earned." He would cr his band experiences to force him to set goals. According to James, his "whole life..is based around competition and goal setting." In junior high, James started a paper route to earn income.
In high school, he entered into student politics and was elected junior class president His opponent would later remark that James was a, "class act" and an, "outstanding student and quiet leader." After the completion of his Doctor of Philosophy, President Stukel joined the faculty of the Engineering He rose to the level of Associate Dean before transferring to the University of Illinois at Chicago.
While there, he served in a variety of administrative capacities, assuming the roles of the Vice-Chancellor for Research, the Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs, and finally, Chancellor of the campus.
After his four-year tenure as Chancellor, James Stukel was selected as President of the University of Illinois system by the UI Board of Trustees. He served in this capacity for approximately 10 years (1995–2005) and was succeeded by B. Joseph White. The newest residence hall at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the James Stukel Towers, was named after the former president
President parish council Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church, Urbana, 1967-1968. Member American Society of Civil Engineers (State-of-the-Art of Civil Engineering award 1975), American Society of Mechanical Engineers, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Sigma Xi, Phi Kappa Phi, Pi Tau Sigma.
Married Mary Joan Helpling, November 27, 1958. Children: Catherine, James, David, Paul.