English professor remembered as empathetic, great negotiator

Trey Crumbie

James “Jim” Stanley Flynn had a knack for problem solving and understanding all sides to a conflict.

The English professor emeritus passed away Dec. 11 in Bowling Green. He was 70 years old. Jim was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2011.

Lana Flynn, his wife of 51 years, said Jim was resilient during his treatment.  

“He never complained,” she said.

The couple married when they were 19.

“You might say [we] grew up together,” she said.

Lana said Jim had a large family and family was very important to him. Jim’s mom died when he was 13, and his dad died when he was 14.

“I think that those tragedies kind of gave him a different perspective on life, so he loved life, loved living and was always thinking of different things to do,” she said.

Jim began his time at WKU in 1962 where he completed his bachelor’s and master’s degree in 1966 and 1967, respectively. In 1972, he became an English professor. 

David Lee, dean of Potter College of Arts and Letters, said Jim was “very skillful” at listening to different points of view, pulling those different points of view together and building consensus.

“He worked extremely well with people,” Lee said.

Aaron Hughey, program coordinator of the Department of Counseling and Student Affairs, met Jim in the late 1980s at an informal gathering at the Faculty House, where faculty and staff would discuss worldwide and WKU affairs. He said Jim was an empathetic individual and worked to resolve conflict.

“He understood people and their motivations and what their concerns were,” Hughey said. “You didn’t have to go into any great detail with Jim. He would kind of pick up on things and understand where you were coming from.”

During his career at WKU, Jim was English department head from 1979 to 1984. Robert Hale, English department head, said Jim helped develop the department with the use of his personal skills.

“He was really a great community builder in the department during his day,” Hale said.

Joe Glaser, a retired English professor who taught in the department with Jim, said he was a nice person who cared about people.

“Whenever anybody needed something, he was one of the ones that people would turn to…,” he said.

Other positions Jim held included assistant to the provost, interim head of the Art Department, interim dean of University College and interim chief international officer.

In addition to his many roles, Jim had an interest in traveling. Jim took multiple students on study abroad trips to countries such as Ireland and England, dating back to the early 1980s.

“He was a very important pioneer in study abroad on this campus,” Lee said.

Lee said Jim occasionally acted as a confidant and people trusted him “with good reason.” Hughey said he frequently talked to Jim each time he had challenges with his job or in other areas of his life.

“He would help you to sort things out and just help you to make sense of it all…,” he said.

Jim was a “rare individual” that higher education needs more of, Hughey said.

“He was just an all-around good guy,” he said.