From: Jay Jacoby (firstname.lastname@example.org)
My wife, Marlene, and I were stunned when Sandy Govan called us on December 21 to tell us of Jim's sudden and unexpected passing. We are still stunned.
Having completed a 27 year stint at UNCC in 2005 and then retiring to Asheville, we have not maintained very close contact with many of my former colleagues. But Jim and Deje were among those with whom we did stay in touch, and we saw them whenever they visited the mountains. Jim and I did not always share the same literary sensibilities (when I first proposed a course in Jewish-American literature he wanted to know if we should also offer a course in Episcopalian-American lit) or dispositions (as so many of you have pointed out, Jim was perennially cheerful while I often harbored a much darker, more ironic outlook). I can say that Jim was among the best of my mentors at UNCC--helping with my adjustment to students who were quite different from those I encountered in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh. I envied his boundless enthusiasm, generous goodwill, and optimism. He was a great colleague and friend, whether it came to teaching (he certainly made the 3-year-long NEH Literature Project a bright spot for me and other colleagues), committee work, or faculty governance and administration (Jim and I spent a few years together in the Rowe building as interim chairs of the Art and Dance/Theatre departments).
One of my last memories of Jim was a dinner we had together a few years ago at a French restaurant in Asheville prior to his giving a reading at Malaprop's Bookstore. I had finally begun to feel comfortable in my retirement, being liberated from the paper load, endless meetings, and campus politics. Though five years younger than Jim, there I was singing the praises of an unencumbered retired lifestyle. Jim responded by saying that he just couldn't imagine for himself a life outside of academia. Jim spoke passionately and energetically about all that he was doing (his memoir had recently been published/he was getting ready to teach a new course in creative non-fiction) and he said that he had not given a thought to retirement. Somehow, I regret that Jim didn't get an opportunity to try out retirement. But I don't think that Jim would share this regret. And I envy him all the more for this. Jim will be deeply missed.
Jay Jacoby, UNCC English faculty member from 1978-2005.