Feb. 9, 1936 — Nov. 18, 2023
James L. Dean, 87, of Ashland, died at home Nov. 18.
Jim was born Feb. 9, 1936, to Warren Heber and Beth Cardon Dean. He spent his first years in Beaver, Utah, but considered Green River, Utah, to be his hometown. He loved the stark beauty of the desert and the muddy waters of the Colorado tributaries. It was those landscapes that fostered in him a lifelong love of nature.
Growing up, Jim helped his father with his work as a Bureau of Land Management field geologist, and he later did everything from working as a paper boy to acting as measurer of river flows at Dewey Bridge (population 5). Jim was a standout athlete and scholar at Green River High School and was awarded a scholarship to Utah State University. At USU he lettered in track and basketball, joined the ROTC program, and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English literature.
After college, Jim spent two years as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Following his military service, Jim enrolled at the University of New Mexico, earning a doctorate in English in 1968. His dissertation, “Howell’s Travels Towards Art,” won the Popejoy Prize for the university’s outstanding dissertation and was subsequently published by the University of New Mexico Press.
In Albuquerque, Jim met his first wife, Helen Davis Dean. Jim and Helen married in 1965, settling in Ashland after Jim obtained a position at Southern Oregon State College, now SOU. Their marriage flourished for 46 years before Helen passed away from Alzheimer’s disease in 2011. Jim found new joy with his second wife, Laura L. Young, whom he married in 2015.
Jim had a long and distinguished career at SOU. He was a gifted teacher but also showed a knack for compassionate and effective administrative leadership. He served as professor of English, department chair, faculty union president. In addition, he served as dean of the graduate program and of the College of Arts and Sciences, associate provost and provost. Following his retirement, Jim sat on the boards of many community organizations and was active with SOU’s emeriti association.
He is survived by his wife Laura; children Christopher Warren Dean (Alison) and Emily Marie Dean; grandchildren Rachel Mills Seeger (Cortland), John Alexander Mills and Andrew James Dean; two great-grandchildren, Anders and James Seeger; sister Julie Dean Watanabe; daughter-in-law Laurie Mills; and stepson Trevor (Olena). Jim was preceded in death by his wife Helen, his sister Louise Dean Hansen, his brother Donald Dean, and son John Mark Mills.
Jim loved books, writing, classical music, fly fishing, canoeing, cross-country skiing, camping, gardening, baking bread and road trips. He was curious, open-minded and had a wry sense of humor. Despite his imposing height (6 feet, 4 inches) and deep voice, he was a gentle soul who cared deeply for others. He will be deeply missed.
A celebration of life for Jim will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 27, in the Gallery Room at Southern Oregon University’s Stevenson Union.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the SOU Foundation.
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