From Our President
John Doble, senior research fellow at Public Agenda, was the first in his family to go to college—a feat that was far from assured. He had an undistinguished high school record and was heading for consistency at UD. Disengaged and aimless, he found himself in Prof. Jim Soles’ class. And, as usual, Jim Soles found himself a student to save. After graduating with honors, Doble began his master’s degree in political science and became Jim’s first teaching assistant.
“By the end of his days, [Jim] and hundreds of UD students were dear friends,” Doble says. “And those students, and others, were forever changed for the better because of Jim’s teaching, friendship, guidance, warmth and wisdom.”
Without doubt, Jim Soles is a UD legend. He advised a “who’s who” of elected officials over the years, and they credit Jim’s counsel with making them better policymakers and better politicians. But more importantly, Jim made thousands of students better citizens—more interested and engaged, more civic-minded, more politically astute and more passionate about life and work.
My “Jim Soles” was John Lepore, a civil engineering professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Prof. Lepore saw in me a bored, injured ex-football player, and he took a chance—hiring me in his lab and encouraging me to give academe a shot. That led to a long career as a professor at Penn and, ultimately, to my presidency at UD. I’m here because Prof. Lepore saw what I could be.
And so I hope this issue’s cover story on Jim Soles sparks in you recollections of your favorite or most influential UD professors, the ones you came to regard as mentors, advisers and friends. I hope the articles you’ll find in these pages—like those honoring beloved English professor Jerry Beasley and distinguished psychology professor James Jones—will stoke a desire to reconnect with professors who’ve made a difference in your life. I hope you’ll find a chance to write or visit, so that you may tell them how they’ve broadened your outlook or narrowed your pursuits. (Many alums did just that during Homecoming weekend.)
I’ll dare to speak for my teaching colleagues when I say there’s nothing more rewarding than to know you’ve had an impact—that your guidance helped shape a career, that your passion ignited another’s, that your work lives on in the students you felt so fortunate to know.
William Chandler, former chief judge of the Delaware Court of Chancery and one of Jim Soles’ many “disciples,” says he hopes that stories like Jim’s are being written every day at UD—“life-altering stories of teachers touching the future.” I know these stories are being written. I see them mid-chapter in classrooms, labs and lecture halls all over campus. And so I thank UD’s faculty for their extraordinary dedication; their generosity of time, intellect and energy; their unshakable faith in the potential of their students; and their obvious joy in seeing it fulfilled.
Patrick T. Harker
President, University of Delaware