Wednesday, December 24, 2014

From: Jim Gillette []

As some faculty will recall, I was the furthest thing from the typical undergraduate student. Having thrown aside nuclear engineering to discover what I was supposed to do with myself and most importantly who I might actually enjoy being for whatever life I might create.

Jim M. and I saw each other around the department for my first two years as a dual major (English/Theatre). But in my third and final year at UNCC, Jim and I became better acquainted during the production of Strider wherein I played the title role and he played the accordion in the pit band. It was a good production and I was singled out for special praise in the reviews. After the show run was over, Jim and were talking about doing a production of Murray Schisgal's The Tiger that I would direct and he would star in; not a frequent occurrence to have an undergrad directing a tenured professor, but I thought nothing of it at the time. While discussing the show he happened to ask "You are not, by any chance related to Bob Barth the Romantic poetry scholar are you?" my reply almost knocked him over: "You mean Uncle Bob?"  It turned out that he had met my uncle, later the Dean of Arts and Sciences at Boston College, at the annual Wordsworth conference in the UK. 

So it turned out that Jim and I would connect over Coleridge and Christian Doctrine too. 

I moved on to grad school and then Hollywood. But on my too infrequent visits back to Charlotte, Jim was always on my agenda. Indeed after my father passed away in 1998, I gave Jim my Dad's inscribed copies of Uncle Bob's books. He protested, but I already had my own well-thumbed copies and really could not think of ANYONE who would appreciate them more than Jim.

As an aside, I'm just about the only one in the family who could manage to get through Uncle Bob's books and we were well known for our ability to clear a room at a reunion by my asking quite innocently "So have you had a chance to get through "Shakespeare's Use of Dream and Vision" that I gave you." My family is full of highly accomplished lawyers, doctors, MBA sorts, but they would run screaming holding their hands over their ears when we started in on a discussion of Wordsworth's preface to Lyrical Ballads in 1800. 

In 2003 I was going through a divorce and doing a bit of a walkabout around the country. I let Jim know I was coming through Charlotte. He was teaching a class on Frankenstein at the time and asked if I wanted to give a guest lecture. It was just like him to offer me exactly the sort of therapy I needed. I prepared a lecture on film techniques used to create character alienation. He asked me to include a clip from Mel Brook's Young Frankenstein if I could. Me? I who used Springtime for Hitler in Boyd Davis' class once? Of course I can do that for you Jim!

So now I find myself living in Las Vegas in a house originally owned by Shecky Greene (look him up youngsters) and I mourn at Christmastime the passing of a seminal figure in my education and an integral support in the architecture that is my structure of lifetime friendships. He will always be there, buttressing my understanding and compassion.

;-Jim Gillette (Barth) UNCC class of 1986

1 comment:

  1. I could agree with all the things written about what a great person Jim was. He was always pleasant and encouraging these last eight years I’ve known him. What you might not know is that Jim had a mischievous side. My “Out to Lunch” door tag that Monica made has a post-it note with “You can say that again” on it. My “Back in 10-15 min” sign has “Oh sure!” written on it. I didn’t know who wrote them, but Jim told me he did, and we had a good laugh. I’ve kept those post-its on the door tags, so we’ll always have some of Jim’s humor around the office.