VOLUME 19 #3

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DEPARTMENTS

Jim Soles changed my life

Alumni and others whose lives were touched share their memories and thoughts.

Kevin Petrasic, AS81

As a struggling first year engineering student at UD, I have a vivid memory of sitting in Dr. Soles' Poli Sci 101 course (I was taking it as an elective) and thinking, "What in the world am I doing in engineering?" Needless to say, Jim drew me into his world in a way that only the best teachers and mentors can do. After considerable thought and based largely on his inspiration and several conversations with Jim and his wife, Ada Leigh (my academic adviser), I was soon a Poli Sci/Econ major. I recall informing one of my engineering professors that I decided to change my major to poli sci ... he lamented that Soles got another one!

There are only a handful of people who have had the same impact on my life as Jim Soles has had—he changed the way I and many other UD students, professors and others outside the UD community looked at the world and, in so doing, he changed our lives. He cut a swath like no other person I have ever met; I was immensely fortunate to have him as both a mentor and a friend. As another UD mentor and friend, Jim Magee, remarked about Dr. Soles, "Many aimless or uncertain undergraduates . . . who might not have ever even finished their education he counseled and successfully convinced to stay the course, redeploy their talents and finish their degrees to become successful men and women in every walk of life. He had a special concern and ability to reach troubled or wayward students. For some students, he was literally UD's St. Jude." I was one of those students, and Jim Soles was instrumental in getting me to redeploy my talents at a time in which I felt particularly lost and uncertain. 

Borrowing again from Dr. Magee, Jim Soles "could be tough as nails and the most kind and understanding fellow colleague or teacher anywhere." I recall talking to Dr. Soles one day after class at the beginning of a semester and asking him what it would take to get an "A" in his class. He laughed and said in that remarkable Southern drawl of his, "That's easy, Kevin, just work harder than you ever have before." I did, and he was unrelenting; at every point in which he sensed I was ready to fold, he found a way to challenge me and keep me engaged with yet another idea or observation. He was masterful, absolutely tough as nails and most definitely pushed me to work harder than I ever had before. At the end of the semester, he delivered the news personally that I got the grade. When I asked him what put me over the top, he laughed and said, again in that Southern drawl, "Why, Kevin, you had it all along, I told you it was easy ... I just wanted to see how hard you could work!"  I have carried his challenge with me ever since. 

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