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In memoriam: James (Jim) Pearson '49

November 16, 2023

Here's a moving eulogy of Jim Pearson '49 crafted by his close friend, Robert Shaughnessy '61. 

I started teaching at Loyola in the fall of 1966. I was assigned to the math Department where there was a formidable array of mentors - Jim Pearson, Doug Potvin, Ed Meagher and Jim Ruddy. They all had their strengths, and I will share with you my insights into James Coady Pearson, or Pearse as he was affectionately referred to. Mathematical concepts can be a tad confusing at times, but Jim had the ability to explain the complicated in a clear and concise manner - there were many times over the years when we would sit and discuss various approaches to presenting a topic. The best part of that was he was always happy to give up his time to do so and in true Pearson fashion, it was fun - imagine Math having a fun side to it. He had a love of Math, and he quietly passed it on to the rest of us. A few years later, the school’s curriculum expanded and there was a problem with the meshing of teachers and students schedules and classrooms. Pearse and I were conscripted to figure it out. It became a yearly event in the summertime to do the “scheduling”. You get to know someone well when you are trying to put a square plug-in a round hole. Pearse was always calm as could be and would always come up with a “Pearson algorithm” to save the day. There were a few times the word calm did not apply.

He was conscious of good health and was always concerned with conditioning and in later years, diet. This was good because he would eat a prodigious amount of food and he would eat basically anything - a dill pickle topped with ice cream did not deter him. To my surprise, his lunches contained an array of food that was “healthy”. Pearse, what are you eating - “Alfalfa sprouts, flax seeds, Chia seeds and hemp hearts - want to try some” - I’ll pass. It was a few years when we coached the Bantam Hockey team together. One year, The Bantam and Senior team (coached by Jim Ruddy and Ed Meagher) were both playing in the City Finals at Loyola’s rink. We won our game and the whole team stayed and watched the Seniors win their game. After the kids had gone, the four of us stayed in the room and went over the season and talked about the kids (there might have been some rum involved) - I can still remember how excited Jim was talking about the boys. This should not have surprised me for that was his strong point as a teacher. There’s the time Pearson’s back was bothering him, and he was continually stretching it - it was not unusual for him to lay on the desk for a bit while teaching. Eric Cook and some of his classmates (according to Eric, not the most motivated class in their last year) recall this vividly but this style of teaching never bothered them. Indeed, to a man they all said, “We loved the guy - we also realized he was "on our side" as young men, regardless of what we did as students. We sensed a genuine kindness from him, which we gravitated to. We knew we could trust him. In our books, he was a "good guy”.

What a gift he had.

He loved to tell jokes and he always pushed up his glasses right before the punch line, followed by that mischievous smile and quiet laugh. At faculty meetings, when debates came close to arguments, he was the voice of reason and thoughtful diplomacy. I always thought of him as the quintessential gentleman, embracing old school manners and dignity. He did it all at Loyola and in the process won the hearts of his peers, the students he taught and the staff he worked with. We were fortunate to have him and today I say goodbye to a special colleague and mentor, but more importantly, to a dear friend and a wonderful human being.  

Jim, may you rest in peace and God bless.

Originally published in the Summer/Fall 2023 edition of the Loyola Today.

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