Professor Jim Vick Retires

Jim VickOn September 1st, 2013, Jim Vick retired from the University of Texas at Austin. Jim came to UT in 1970 and since that time, he has had a profound impact on the University, both as a teacher and an administrator. In each of these roles, Jim has placed an emphasis on improving the student experience here at the University. As an administrator, he oversaw innovations that impact students on a daily basis, from Freshman Interest Groups to honors dormitories. As a teacher, he shows a personal interest in his students’ progress. It is this focus on the student that has made him such a beloved figure on campus.

Over the years, Jim, a member of the Academy of Distinguished Teachers, has won numerous teaching awards, the most recent being that in 2013 he was one of the inaugural class of inductees to the UT System Academy of Distinguished Teachers. He attributes his teaching success to three things: the influence of his parents, both of whom were teachers, his enjoyment of connecting with students, and his love of mathematics. The feeling of sharing something beautiful, offering guidance without telling the students everything, and then seeing the light come on as they realize that they understand something special or new is what he truly loves about teaching. He makes sure that the students know that he cares about them, spending time to learn their names early in the semester. This preparation offers the opportunity to surprise them as well, as he did when he called a student by name in a large lecture hall on the first day of class. As you may imagine, no one in the class felt anonymous after that! He loves what he does and his enthusiasm is contagious, as evidenced by the many students who keep in touch with him years after having taken a class from him.

Jim served the university as vice-president for student affairs from 1989 until 2005. During that time his interest in improving the lives of students led to many changes, both big and small. Changes that were implemented under his leadership included items to relieve the stress inherent in attending a large university, from streamlining of the registration process to giving freshmen the opportunity to meet informally with faculty before classes begin as part of the Reading Roundup, a program in which students and faculty meet to discuss books recommended by the faculty. Jim not only pioneered this program, but participates in it as well.

Although his duties as vice-president did not include teaching, Jim could not stay away from the classroom. After the first year and a half in the tower, he jumped at the chance to teach a math class when he found out that the department had a class that needed to be covered. From that time on, until he retired as vice-president and came back to full-time teaching, Jim taught one course each semester, pro bono, simply for the love of teaching. Indeed even after retirement, Jim continues to teach for us in his beloved Plan II Honors Program. We are so grateful that he does!

In 2008, Jim was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. Because of this he has worked with a student organization, Texas Round Table, to raise awareness about the disease and amongst other things, hosted Pancakes for Parkinson, a fundraiser for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. To see a video of Jim discussing Parkinson’s disease and hear him reading one of his poems, “P. D. and Me”, go here.

Asked about his 42 years at the University, Jim says that he has been treated well by the department, the community, and above all the staff. The University has been fortunate to have had such a strong advocate for its students and such a model teacher as Jim. He has given much and his impact on student life will be felt for decades to come.

If you would like to make a gift in recognition of Jim Vick’s many years of service, click HERE.