James J. Megivern

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James J. Megivern

James J. Megivern

July 02, 1931~December 16, 2020

Author, professor, social justice activist, James J. Megivern died in Palm Harbor, FL on December 16, at the age of 89.

Born in Johnson City, New York in 1931, he entered the Roman Catholic Seminary at 14. Ordained in 1959, he continued his studies in Fribourg, Switzerland, earning a doctorate in Theology. He also earned an S.S.L. from the Pontifical Biblical Institute of the Gregorian University in Rome. He taught at St. John’s University in New York until he left the priesthood in 1968.

A position in the Philosophy and Religion Department at UNCW brought him to Wilmington, NC, where he met his wife Marjorie, a journalist at the Wilmington Star-News.  Megivern enjoyed a long and prominent career as a professor at UNCW, serving as Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religion for 17 years, He also lectured at various local churches, was a book author, and a columnist of “The World of Religion,” for the Star-News.

A leading presence on the UNCW campus, Jim played a huge role in building the department of philosophy and religion, and he left an indelible mark on the larger community.  As one colleague remembered him during a 2008 UNCW tribute, “The only time an Irishman is truly happy, is when he is in a fight.”  Although he was a gentle and peaceful man, Jim loved always being out front, fighting for just causes, especially involving social justice issues. He was an important leader in race relations in the Wilmington community, and was co-chair, with Bertha Todd, of the 1898 Foundation in the inaugural years of 1997-99, when the story of the 1898 massacre was first brought before the public and a year-long, city-wide effort at racial reconciliation was carried out.

His writing also reflected those concerns:  in 1997 he published The Death Penalty: An Historical and Theological Survey which is considered the seminal work on the history of the death penalty in Western Christianity. He lectured and worked actively in the anti-death penalty movement.

In 2003, he co-authored with his wife Marjorie, People of Vision: A History of the American Council of the Blind, a definitive account of the history of the formation of the American Council of the Blind.

Jim was predeceased by his wife Marjorie Smith Megivern, his parents, John and Katherine Megivern, two brothers, John and Francis Megivern and his sister, Elizabeth Riley.

He is survived by his brother and sister-in-law Paul and Lynn Megivern of Casselberry, FL, his sister Kathleen Megivern and her husband James Mecklenburger of Clearwater, FL, his four stepsons and their spouses, Steven (Nikki) Smith, Daniel (Lorri) Smith, Stuart (Sara) Smith and Bruce, (Barbara) Smith, and numerous nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews.

Additionally, Jim’s legacy includes scores of college students who were enlightened by his words and moved by his example.

Condolence

Howard Rockness - Former Colleague at UNCW

December 22, 2020, 5:39 pm

May he rest in peace. I worked with Jim in my years as a professor and Dean of the Cameron School of Business at UNCW. He was high energy, forceful in pursuing what he though was right, committed to the quality of our academic mission, and good to work with even though we often had different priorities. UNCW is a better place because of his energy, insights, commitment, and goodwill. Howard Rockness, Former Dean and Professor Emeritus of Accounting.

  • Relationship: Former Colleague at UNCW

Joe Hickman - faculty at UNCW

December 22, 2020, 7:26 pm

Jim was a good friend and great colleague. It was an honor to know him.

  • Relationship: faculty at UNCW

Larry Honeycutt - FELLOW UNCW FACULTY MEMBER IN SHAHS

December 22, 2020, 7:28 pm

MY THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS WILL CONTINUE TO BE WITH THE MEGIVERN FAMILY DURING TIME OF SADNESS ! WHAT A GREAT LIFE HE LIVED AND IMPACTED THE LIVES OF SO MANY AROUND HIM DURING HIS 89 YEARS THE LORD KEPT HIM ON THIS EARTH !

  • Relationship: FELLOW UNCW FACULTY MEMBER IN SHAHS

Jason Dokla - Proud Student

December 26, 2020, 2:46 pm

My condolences for Professor Megivern’s passing. He remains my MOST beloved and memorable Professor when I attended UNCW from 1995 to 1997. His energy and love for the history of religion is what pushed me hard to challenge my own boundaries. The world is just a little bit smaller without his presence here on earth. The picture posted above is JUST as I remember him. Seeing his warm face brings both a smile and a tear to my eye. I want to sincerely thank his beloved Sister for notifying me. My prayers are with the family. Now he can rest in peace with his wife and perhaps answer some of his own historical unanswered questions as he is now with his maker.

  • Relationship: Proud Student

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