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James Horan ’80

March 18, 2017, in Chicago, Illinois, in a car crash.

James enjoyed a stellar 34-year career as an English, Latin, and Greek teacher at Loyola Academy and Hinsdale Central High School, both in the Chicago area, where he also coached basketball, baseball, and golf. He died in a car accident nine months after he retired, and more than a thousand people attended his memorial—including family, friends, former students, players, and coaches who had competed against him.

He grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago with five siblings—two sisters and three brothers. With his energy, charisma, and intelligence he could have accomplished anything he desired. For Jim, that meant pursuing his lifelong love of the classics, begun when he took a language course at Reed with Prof. Fred Peachy [classics 1956–82] one summer. Jim had studied the great books at Shimer College in Illinois before transferring to Reed in the late ’70s. He thrived at Reed in and out of the classroom. The quintessential city kid transplanted to the Pacific Northwest, he made the most of his time—fashioning a happy marriage out of his urban street smarts and Reed’s countercultural proclivities. Equally at home explaining the intricacies of a Chicago Bears running play or identifying the flora and fauna one might encounter during a backpacking trip in the Cascades or on a Chicago city street, Jim modeled an openness to the world that relied on a sharp mind, alert eye, athletic grace, and incredibly quick sense of humor.

After graduating from Reed, he returned to his beloved Chicago, where he earned his master’s in classics and began his teaching career. His boisterous, friendly nature made him the kind of teacher and coach that impressed countless students and players. In a number of ways, he communicated to them that they belonged, had worth, and could find a place in this world. In his actions and words, he showed them how to use their minds, attend to others, and cultivate whatever talent they had within themselves.

He looked forward to his retirement and spending time with his adored wife, Ellen. Jim knew that completing a career only meant new adventures, large and small. A lover of all types of music from blues to rock to reggae, Jim started the band Jambone, which played at a number of bars and small gigs in Chicago. Inspired by the writing and baking exploits of his Reedie friend Sam Fromartz ’80, Jim also perfected the bubble structure in his baguettes. He ran the Chicago Marathon and did the Chicago Triathlon. After his retirement, he got a hole in one and saw his cherished Cubs win the World Series.

Reed has a tendency to attract larger-than-life characters, and to nurture that bigness in them. Jim certainly fit the bill. The big-shouldered spirit associated with his hometown of Chicago mixed perfectly with the expansiveness of mind and mountain view that makes up the best of going to Reed. Jim is survived by his wife, Ellen; his daughter, Lisa Coonan; and his son, Robert Horan. —Orrin Wang ’79

Appeared in Reed magazine: September 2017

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