Memories of Jim Child

Jim Child imageThis page is for any thoughts or memories of Jim that you would like to share. If you would like to post something here, send it to Ian Young at

Jim Child was a good friend, and I shall miss his laughter, We would meet regularly and discuss things that had happened to us. Nearly always,these happenings involved some craziness or other, like the time we were asked to leave an eating establishment for not making enough noise, or the time a woman came up to us and asked us to remember her to "Herbert" (whom we didn't know),or the time a former student tried to give Jim all his possessions (and we tried to return them in the dead of night and got lost). He was a student-friendly professor and an important player in the development of our Ph.D, program, in which he taught continually. A man with a delightful sense of humor.

R.G. Frey

I can never see the word "chaos" without thinking of Jim. Not for the reason you might be thinking though. In Jim's History of Moral Philosophy seminar in my first year at graduate school here, Jim told us about how, as he was growing up, he loved to read. Sometimes, however, living in semi-rural northwest Ohio, he came across words that he didn't hear spoken around him. One of these was "chaos." He had to guess at the pronunciation and for years, went around feeling very sophisticated at being able to drop "chaos" into a sentence every now and then. Unfortunately, he was pronouncing it as "chows" which he later discovered, much to his chagrin, was incorrect. Now, whenever I see it, I think of it pronounced that way and also of Jim.

Ian Young

My most vivid memories of Jim are of his booming voice coming from Shatzel 301 which could be heard all around the department. Jim was quite serious about teaching, but still you could hear that he always managed to have fun with his students. In later years, when Jim was not around the department as much as he used to be and his health problems became more persistent, I would comfort myself that his health was coming around because his voice would sound so strong and confident.   I also remember vividly the great parties Jim would have at his wonderful house in Findley. There were smaller functions where there was always an amazing spread of food and a great selection of single malt whiskeys—indeed Jim introduced me to appreciation of such at one of his wonderful parties. Jim would always be in high spirits at these events and he and Ray would inevitably get to telling fabulous stories that kept the whole gang riveted. Jim and Lynn would also often host great department picnics with volleyball, catered food, canoeing, and much more. These were inevitable the most successful department events and, although they must have been lots of work for Jim and Lynn, they both always truly seemed to be enjoying others enjoying themselves at their party.  

I will miss him.

David Sobel

I only just learned of Jim's passing. What a terrible loss of a valuable professor and kind man. Please let people know he is missed. I thought I might share a few reflections.

Jim Child was one of the first faculty I met when I entered the graduate program in philosophy at BGSU. I had been assigned to work with Jim as a teaching assistant and was to meet with him just before the start of the semester. I was immediately awed by Jim's presence, partly because of his imposing size and booming voice and remarkably strong handshake. He set me at ease immediately; I recall he commented favorably about a hat I was wearing, and I made certain to wear it on the first day of his lecture. My fellow TAs and I met with Jim regularly at a nearby restaurant known for its stuffed breadsticks; on occasion, he even treated. Jim was an excellent conversation partner and was terribly well informed about a number of matters, including politics, art and aesthetics, and history. His desire to discuss such matters served as an excellent means for distraction. I recall in a seminar on Modern philosophy, a few graduate students who were less than excited about Spinoza's idealism decided to distract Jim by suggesting that Winston Churchill's private romantic interests were a bit less conventional than
commonly reported. I don't recall discussing Spinoza much that day.

I don't think I ever let Jim know how much I admired and respected him. I wish I had told him when I had the chance.

Peter Brian Barry
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Saginaw Valley State University

It is hard to imagine Jim as absent in a permanent sense.  Despite his considerable health problems, he always seemed so alive and vibrant and positive.  I will miss him because he was a dear person and because he was a rarity in our profession--warm, unassuming, entertaining, and real, one of the most genuine and unpretentious persons I have known.  Jim had enthusiasm for his work, and of such a happy sort, not sullied in the least by concerns for his status or reputation or rank.  (Truly, that is refreshing.)  He was interested in such a variety of topics, too--politics, art, literature, film--and loved to talk about these with his friends and colleagues over supper and drinks.  And he was open about his love for Lynn and his dogs, and that made him all the more endearing.  I wish he could have stayed around a bit longer.

Marina Oshana

Philosophy Department, University of Florida

Jim was able to give me many things that other persons were not. He was an unbelievable mentor, only concerned with the well being of who he was mentoring, not self-aggrandizement. That was something truly wonderful about Jim, that I have carried with me to this day. Because of his experience outside the academic philosophical world, he was able to see past the everyday political nonsense that happens in academia, and he was able to guide others to see past it too. He did relate things in his class to everyday experiences making very abstract ideas seem very concrete. He was also unashamed of his life and his experience and held to his thought regardless of what others threw at him. He taught me bravery in my own experience. He taught me to trust what I think instead of believing that others must be right. He had an incredible sense of laughter and we would discuss our dogs every time we met. His laugh boomed through the halls, making everyone who heard it feel like there must be something worth laughing about. Actually, I have a Great Dane now because he had one then. And she is every bit as funny as he said she would be. His deep love for Lynn was also something a man like him was unafraid for the world to know. That was always refreshing and endearing. I will miss Jim greatly, even though I hadn't seen him in years, the knowledge that he was there was always comforting. He was bigger than life in so many ways that he made it seem possible that you could be bigger than life too, just by being around him. I will continue to think about him nearly every day because of the influence his life had on mine.

Pam Ryan, Ph.D., 2000, Jim Child chair. (Currently at Morehead State University teaching political philosophy a la Jim Child and Honors)

I met with Prof. Child in a course I took from him in 2002. Not only did he influence me very much by his way of doing philosophy but also I was shocked when I realized how close our views on many philosophical issues are. I was hoping to see him again at the defense of my dissertation as he was one of the members of my dissertation committee. When I learned that he passed away I was upset and I am very sad for losing him very early. I think that we have lost not only an important colleague but also a good friend, advisor and lovely person. His place cannot be filled.

Aysel Dogn,
(PhD Candidate, BGSU)

I can clearly remember my first experience of Jim Child.  How else to describe a first meeting with Jim than as an "experience"?  I had just arrived at BGSU for a recruiting visit. Jim was one of the first people I met.  I walked into his office, immediately greeted with a smile and a kind voice. (Anyone who has called his home knows that the "kind voice" is reserved for those he knows. I’m sure he was quite good at scaring away the telemarketers.)  Evidently someone mentioned to him my football background, because immediately after introducing himself, he says, "So let’s get on to the important stuff- What position did you play?"  He then starts telling me of his days as a nose tackle at Ohio State .  Immediately a bond was formed.  And it was right then and there that I knew I was coming to BG.  For a black man coming from the South, the Midwest --with few faces of color--can be pretty intimidating.  And Jim of course, by the sheer nature of his size, could be pretty intimidating, too.  But within moments of my arrival to Bowling Green , Ohio , this huge man with the gruff voice made me feel at ease.  Over the next two years, I not only learned philosophy from him but also gained a certain degree of confidence.  As a former football player, I, like Jim, also possess a physique somewhat out of place in Ivory Tower.  But Jim’s very presence was a daily reminder that it was ok for me to like philosophy--and football, too.  For his kindness, support, and tutelage, I will forever be grateful.  Goodbye, Jim.  You are and always will be sorely missed.

Travis Tucker, M.A

Remembering Jim Child

I will always be a Jim Child fan!  (The first of several sports analogies that would not have been lost on Jim.  How he loved Larry Bird's Celtics!)

My first memory of Jim is as a "walk-on."  I was graduate advisor when Fred

Miller (then chair) came into my office with great excitement in his voice.

Just a few weeks before, a very strange man had walked into his office and volunteered to teach any course he would assign to him.  He was in no way qualified to teach philosophy, and Fred had had a hard time shaking him.

But this time, Jim Child walked in, unrecruited, and yet seemingly ideally qualified to teach any of the courses listed as "staff" in the next semester's schedule.  Jim was a "natural," a perfect fit for the applied philosophy team we were putting together - with the MA up and running and the PhD a dream for the future.  He had degrees in philosophy and law and had taught at Brandeis and UC Santa Cruz.  He had practiced law and served as CEO of an international corporation based in Findlay.  And we didn't have to go out and find him – that gentle giant just walked in!

After several years away from the university, he found that his true love was teaching philosophy, and he wanted to get back in the game.  Who better to teach philosophy of law or business ethics?  He began teaching occasional courses but was soon given a "full-ride" - a tenured appointment.

Jim seemed as if he could teach anything.  And he loved doing it.  If teaching is at all like coaching, Jim was "a player's coach."  He was truly dedicated to bringing out the best in his students.  He delighted giving undergraduates the fundamentals of clear thinking and infecting them with the excitement for philosophy that was in his blood.  And he was terrific with graduate students, taking them way beyond the fundamentals.  He offered a broad range of challenging, often applied seminars.  And he served on thesis and dissertation committees with enthusiasm.  No doubt many students count him as one of the best professors they ever had.

Philosophy was a living, breathing thing for Jim.  It seemed he was interested in all of it.  He had a rare curiosity and read avidly in many areas.  He knew well the history of the game.  And he came to play.  Philosophy came to life for him in discussion with others, in the team play of genuine dialogue.  He really wanted the exchange to lead somewhere.  He offered much and was always eager to understand better the thinking of others.  Dialogue brought out the best in Jim as he in turn brought out the best in those lucky enough to get caught up in the exchange with him.  He made you think.

Jim was always a team player in the department.  He loved the applied program and was willing to do whatever he could to make it work.  He knew it would take sustained, cooperative effort.   And he was determined to be a positive, contributing force.  He brought energy to whatever he did, in spite of his battles with health problems.

I know of no one else who literally risked his life for the sake of the department as Jim did when he stood for election , and served all too briefly, as department chair.  There, too, he was in many ways a "natural."  And I can't help wondering where he would have taken the department had he been able physically to continue in that role.

I will always cherish Jim's friendship.  He is one of those I truly missed when

I left BG ten years ago.  So I have been missing him for some time.  I was shocked to learn of his sudden death - he always seemed larger than life to me. It saddens me to think I will never again lose my (not really small) hand in his or converse with the man I could not help but see as the great "big man" I was proud to have on "our side."

No doubt there are those among you who are now missing him more acutely than I. But he touched so many students and colleagues in so many lasting ways.  He is truly an unforgettable character in my life, as I hope and trust he is for many of you.  No need to stop admiring, and yes loving, him now.

Tom Attig

Professor Emeritus

I had Professor Child for a couple of legal philosophy classes in 1992 and 1993.  I was an English (pre-law) Major with a Minor in Philosophy and I loved him.  He had a great aura, sense of humor, and simple warm disposition; yet his presence when speaking commanded respect and admiration.  He was the first person to challenge my flawed rationale of taking one position but saying it was available for others to decide differently.  I wish I could say he was a mentor.  I was just one of the "brown-nosers".  

I am now an attorney with my own practice in Michigan .  I had often thought of looking him up and writing to him what a great impact he had had upon me.  Then today I was just speaking with a friend about him and decided to look him up and write him a nice e-mail.  I was shocked and saddened to read of his untimely passing. 

I remember when he invited his entire class to his home in Findlay to meet his wife and eat and fellowship. 

I will miss him.

Jonathon Douglas
1994 Graduate


I was a student in philosophy with Jim Child at Ohio State University.  He was the most amazing person I have ever known, a unique individual.  I remember him every day.

James Coffey

Updated: 06/18/2020 12:26PM