Affable Educator, Minister, Coach Keeps the Faith, Finishes the Race
Beloved as a teacher, mentor, and friend, Jim Bean dies at age 94
WOOSTER, Ohio, — Jim Bean, revered for his unshakable optimism, unwavering encouragement, and unfailing enthusiasm during a long association with The College of Wooster and the Presbyterian Church, died Sunday at West View Manor in Wooster. He was 94.
A man of many titles — professor, pastor, coach, mentor, and most notably, friend — Bean joined the faculty at Wooster as a member of the French Department in 1965. He also served in the departments of religious studies and physical education, and was an ordained Presbyterian Minister. In 1966, he took over as head cross country coach and held that position for the next 20 years. He also coached track and field from 1975-1984.
Born in St. Paul, Minn., on Nov. 19, 1920, Bean enrolled at The College of Wooster in 1938 and graduated with a degree in sociology in 1942. As a student, he was a member of the Scot baseball team. He went on to Union Theological Seminary where he earned a divinity degree in 1945 and years later (1966) a master's of sacred theology. He also earned an advanced degree in physical education at Teachers College, Columbia University in 1957 and a master's degree in French at Kent State University in 1975. Over the years, he made many trips to France, where he taught, coached, and served as an administrator and chaplain at various institutions.
Bean met and married Sarah "Sally" Graham, a nursing student at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, in 1944. The couple had four children (Jim, Mark, Kathy, and John). Having been a dedicated conscientious objector during World War II, Bean felt that it was vital to serve his church and his country by participating in the rebuilding of Europe. From 1946 to 1964, he and Sally served as fraternal workers with the French Reformed Church, living and working in northern and south-central France to rebuild communities torn apart by the war. It was during this time that he served as teacher, coach, administrator, and chaplain at Le College Cevenol in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon.
In addition to his many roles and responsibilities, Bean was an avid runner, who often stopped to pick up trash and deposit it in the nearest receptacle, especially on campus. He was inducted into The College of Wooster "W" Association Athletic Hall of Fame in 1990.
At a surprise retirement reception in 1987, the always grateful and gracious Bean expressed his appreciation to those who had gathered. "My years at Wooster have been so extraordinarily rich," he said. "There is no possible way for Sally and I to express our thanks."
Eugene Beem, former professor at Baldwin-Wallace and Bean's roommate at Wooster, also spoke the night of the reception. "Jim represents Wooster at its best," he said. "He cares not just about the students and faculty and the College, but also about the rest of us. We have all been touched by him."
Dennis Rice, head track and cross country coach at Wooster, who succeeded Bean as the men's cross country coach 1989, but worked with him for 15 more years when Bean stayed on as an assistant, said, "he had a great influence on me as a young head coach. He was like a father figure to all of the men and women he coached. They all had great respect for him, and loved having him as a part of the program. Our annual PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) Award for both men and women is given in honor of his exceptionally positive nature. He found good in everything, and our athletes thrived on that. His influence was unbelievable."
Gordon Collins, emeritus professor of psychology and a longtime assistant track coach, called Bean the last of the saints. "He was honest, and he loved everybody," said Collins. "He did not have an enemy in the world. He was an excellent coach — not 'fire and brimstone,' but always looking at 'how we can do this better.' He inspired you by being the warm, caring person that he was."
Gordon Tait, emeritus professor of religious studies, remembers Bean as a man of many talents. "I actually met Jim when I went to College Cevanol (France) where he was teaching Bible, sports, and other subjects," said Tait. "He served us well in the department of religious studies before he moved to a joint appointment in French and physical education. My late wife, Lois, and I spent many happy hours in the home of Jim and Sally. As an ordained Presbyterian minister, he preached in many pulpits in the area, and there are many former students and residents in Wooster whom he married."
David Wilkin, emeritus professor of French, described his former colleague as one who lived the Christian message of love and caring in everything he did. "I think the most important thing Jim did at the College was to listen, especially to those who were going through personal crises," said Wilkin. "He was a champion for people who were down on their luck; a person that they could trust and feel comfortable with. People really cared about Jim, and his kindness came back to him in many ways, including the alumni run that was organized in his honor. In his work as an interim pastor he also touched the lives of many people. He was a steadfast friend to me and to countless others as well."
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Feb. 28, at 2:30 pm., at First Presbyterian Church in Wooster. A reception in Bruch Hall (adjacent to First Presbyterian Church) will follow.