The UNC Charlotte community is mourning the sudden death of Jim McGavran, a beloved professor of English for 41 years.
McGavran, 73, died Saturday of what colleagues said was a stroke. He had taught at UNCC since 1973, shortly after completing his doctorate from UNC Chapel Hill.
Colleagues remembered McGavran for his scholarship and dedication to British literature, especially the early 19th-century Romantic era of William Wordsworth, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats.
His students, in online reviews, called him challenging and passionate but funny: “GREATEST. Professor. EVER,” one wrote a couple of years ago.
“He was constantly curious about new and interesting writers, and how to introduce not only the world of Romanticism to his students but how to get them to look at writers who might have been overlooked,” said English professor Alan Rauch, a colleague for 13 years.
“He was such a generous colleague and more importantly, in some sense, a generous student. It was not surprising that students returned to take his classes.”
Among McGavran’s honors were the Bank of America Teaching Excellence Award in 2006 and the UNC Board of Governors Teaching Excellence Award in 2007. He served as faculty president in the 1980s and assistant dean of UNCC’s College of Arts and Sciences from 1988 through 1993.
Family members said McGavran was devoted to his wife, Dorothy, called Deje, a daughter, two sons and a grandson.
Gatherings often found him playing piano or accordion, learned from his father, according to his obituary. In 2010, he wrote about his parents and siblings in “In the Shadow of the Bear: A Michigan Memoir.”
The Romantic authors found beauty and truth in nature, ideals that also shaped McGavran. He spent part of his last morning planting pansies.
The pictures taped to his office door conveyed wry humor and an active life: Kermit the Frog, a Doonesbury cartoon, images of flowers and nature scenes, a photograph of a man climbing a cliff.
“Upon close inspection, one realizes that the man in the photograph is Jim,” English department chair Mark West wrote in a memorial blog post.
“As his door proclaims, Jim took joy in life, embraced nature, and was always ready to climb the next cliff, for he knew that when he reached the top he would be able to see for miles around. I trust that he is enjoying the view.”