Service rouses kinship, reflection

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Friends came together to celebrate the life of James Roach, a former government professor who taught at UT for 45 years, on Thursday in the University’s Main Building.

A World War II veteran and a cultural diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, Roach died on Aug. 5.

He directed the Plan II honors program from 1965 to 1969 and received the Pro Bene Meritis award in 1993 for outstanding contributions to liberal arts at UT. In 2000, the UT Board of Regents established in Roach’s honor an endowed presidential scholarship, the James. R. Roach Endowed Fund in American Foreign Relations.

Bob Hardgrave, a retired government professor, said Roach’s legacy is his dedication to his students.

“He was a man who was deeply committed to teaching,” Hardgrave said. “I can’t think of anyone I’ve ever known who has had a greater impact through teaching on his students.”

While he was an undergraduate, Hardgrave took a course of Roach’s and eventually returned to UT to became Roach’s colleague and friend.

“His course led me to pursue a career in academic life as a professor,” Hardgrave said.

Hardgrave was impressed that Roach kept in touch with many of his students and wrote letters to them.

At the memorial, government professor emeritus Karl Schmitt said when he was new at UT, he felt overwhelmed as a new professor. Roach advised him just to stay a couple chapters ahead of the students, he said.

“He didn’t tell me how to teach — he encouraged me,” Schmitt said.

Roach, who was abroad often, encouraged Schmitt to see the world, eventually traveling on vacation to India with his wife.

“He helped me expand my view of the world,” Schmitt said.

Terri Webb Jonas, whose father was a professor emeritus and worked with Roach, said he was often at her house when she was growing up.

She recited a poem she wrote after his death called “Indian Jim,” in which she described how she imagined Roach travelling in India and throughout Asia.

At the ceremony, government professor John Higley said Roach had a strong attachment to Australia, reading a testament from Ross Terrill, a former professor from UT who is from Australia.

Terrill, who said most of his fond memories from Texas are because of Roach, said he looked through letters from Roach after his death, and they showed “the high value Jim placed on friendship.”

Government department chairman Gary Freeman said he was a stubborn man known for getting his way. Described as living very sociably but also in solitude, he lived alone almost his whole life and was never married. Freeman said Roach never learned how to use a computer, instead using his typewriter, and never owned a television.

“Jim Roach was a man of contradiction,” Freeman said. “He had more friends than anyone I’ve ever known. But he was also a solitary, private man.”