A Tribute to Jim

Your obit in the Pittsburgh paper provided highlights of your long, successful career. Your professional achievements as a world-renowned psychologist and scholar, your courage in speaking truth to power during the Vietnam conflict, and as a faculty advocate throughout your academic career, (I learned you were called the ‘conscience of the academy’) and your ability to maintain civility and respect with those whose opinions differed from your own – all left an inspiring legacy.

 

I wasn’t a part of those years since we met 13 years ago when you were in the middle years of your old age at 77. “Growing old isn’t for sissies,” and you taught me the real meaning of that expression. First off, at that advanced age, you took up something you had no background or experience with – performing in an improv troupe. Initially you agreed to learn Interplay, a system based in dance that uses song, story and stillness, and help demonstrate it to others.  You came to love performing and rehearsing with your playmates, the first you’d ever had since you’d grown up as the only child on an island in the Savannah River. When you began you were fully able-bodied, experiencing the benefits of your years of hiking, skiing, and swimming. But as time went on, infirmities developed. Due to Spinal Stenosis, a condition where the spinal column narrows, you experienced pain, numbness, and a degenerative cascade of physical disabilities.

You called on your training as a marine, to keep going when the going got tough. I saw you grimace but I never heard you complain. I saw you stop and sigh, but I never saw you quit. Often an inspiring feature in performances by the Wing and A Prayer Pittsburgh Players that I directed, audiences marveled as you performed sometimes with a cane, sometimes a walker, and later, in a wheel chair. Through the years you danced with the body you had on each particular day. Following your lead, I danced with my arm in a sling after I broke my shoulder in my dance class. Another company member broke her ankle and danced in a boot, on crutches, and in a wheel chair. As you so aptly demonstrated, the dance changes, but the dance is still the dance and no matter what, we can still dance it.