Deceased March 25, 2017
My old pal Jim Brophy died March 25 in Greenport, Long Island, not far from his longtime home in Southampton at age 90. He seemed to be an “English major” all his life. He was in the U.S. Navy for two years (1945-46) and came to Amherst where he was inspired by Professor Armour Craig to consider a career in teaching. A natural with words, Jim was my choice for the position of class secretary.
After college he earned an M.A. in English from Columbia and then went to France with a Fulbright. Not sure how the studying went, but he married Betty Bergen (Smith ’51) in Paris where she was doing her senior year, so they stayed there until her study was completed. I had known Betty and her sister in high school.
They returned to his hometown of New Rochelle, N.Y., to look for a job and for the birth of the first of their eventual five children. He took an instructorship position at the newly founded Iona College for what he thought would be a brief period—and taught there for 41 years!
An academic duo, Betty earned an M.A. at Sarah Lawrence, then both earned Ph.D.s at Columbia, and she began teaching at the nearby College of New Rochelle. They bought a home in Harrison, N.Y., and settled in for long successful teaching careers just a few miles away.
Two of Jim’s best friends were Ward Burns ’50 and our classmate Don Roberts, and in fact, the last time I saw Jim was at Don’s memorial service, which we attended together. Those three were all members of Phi Psi and were close all through their lives.
He and Betty spent four different sabbatical years in London, each refining their specialty of that time, traveled all over Europe and each of their children spent at least a year in a London school. Jim and his wife have written several books and numerous essays, and when he retired in 1992, he expected to continue with literary criticism, especially on John Milton in whom he developed special interest in his last years of teaching.
Also, he said it did not work out quite that way since the house in Southampton needed a bit of attention—like adding five rooms and two baths to accommodate visiting children and guests. They spend a month every winter in Florida and later travels included an Elderhostel in India and Germany where a son who is also a professor was on sabbatical.
He was predeceased by both his wife and a son in 2011, and he is survived by four children, six grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. Jim was quintessential college professor, bearded, beloved, warm and an inspiration to hundreds of students … and a classmate we admire and shall miss.
Gerry Reilly ’49