Deceased June 15, 2021

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In Memory

Jim died on June 15, doing what he loved: working out in the gym. His life was filled with travel, work, friendships and hobbies—a full, blessed life, bursting with memories, accomplishments and adventures. 

Born in Jerseyville, Ill., Jim cherished his early years on a dairy farm. His love of the outdoors continued after his family moved to Rochester, N.Y.

After a year at Hobart College, Jim transferred to Amherst, where he majored in history and pledged Phi Gam. After two stints in the Army, Jim went to work for Bausch & Lomb for a successful but unsatisfying four years as an advertising account manager. At his wife’s urging, he enrolled at the University of Minnesota and received a Ph.D. in English. He began his teaching career at UMass in 1968. For the next 45 years, Jim remained a cherished educator, inspiring countless students with his infectious passion for Dante, Chaucer, Hemingway and other foundational authors. He published three books and almost 80 articles on subjects as varied as his interests, ranging from John Milton to gravestones to Donald Duck. He traveled the globe presenting lectures and serving as a guest professor, from Italy to Singapore and places in between. His love of the Renaissance led him twice to Florence, Italy, for yearlong sabbaticals.

Though literature was Jim’s love, nothing eclipsed his adoration of Margaret, his wife of 60 years. They moved to Hadley, Mass., in 1969 and raised sons Matthew and Eric. Jim instilled in them his love of swimming, biking, hiking and exercise. His wit, humor, curiosity and interest led to many lasting friendships, as few were able to resist his charm. While we grieve his passing, we take solace knowing his children, grandchildren and myriad friends will keep his memory alive. 

Peter Levison ’56