In memory of Jim Swartz: Celebrating the dynamic life of a devoted educator and accomplished researcher

Jim Swartz

By James M. Loy, College of Education, Health and Society

Jim Swartz loved being a teacher and he respected his colleagues. His thoughts were often on his students, and throughout his nearly 20 years at Miami University he spread friendliness and warmth among everyone he knew.

“He was quick with a smile, joke, or a sports team insult to lighten your day,” says Ray Witte, former chair of Miami’s department of educational psychology (EDP) and a current University of Toledo dean. “Jim was happy at Miami and I was fortunate to call him my colleague and friend.”

Swartz, who served as a professor of educational psychology in Miami’s College of Education, Health and Society (EHS), passed away peacefully on Friday, October 29. His passing leaves behind a memorable legacy that truly cherished the wellbeing of others.

“Jim was a humble, passionate colleague who had a special ability to make others feel valued and cared for,” says Katy Mezher, EDP assistant clinical professor. “We had the best talks. He thoughtfully asked about my ill mother and shed a tear with me.”

During his time at Miami, Swartz taught courses in instructional design and technology, and he developed several graduate programs, which included his most beloved course, Qualitative Research in Educational Psychology.

“Jim loved to talk about educational philosophy and qualitative research,” says EDP Professor Michele Dickey. “While he was an active scholar and greatly enjoyed research, Jim was most joyful when teaching. Jim loved students, and he loved to teach. He was devoted to his students and was generous with his time and expertise.”

Throughout his career, Swartz served on over 100 doctoral committees and published numerous journal articles on qualitative research, media, and philosophy. As an active member of the Society for Philosophy and History of Education, he also served as the organization’s secretary and treasurer and eventually as president in 2009.

Prior to entering academia, Swartz was also a pilot and officer in the U.S. Navy.

During the Vietnam War, he flew daily missions, often under fire, while leading his squadron to and from the aircraft carrier upon which they were stationed. It was an experience that he would occasionally recall and share with others.

“If you ran into Jim in the hallway, you could always count on a joyful hello and if you stopped to chat, you’d likely hear an interesting story,” says Jason Abbitt, EDP professor and interim department chair. “Jim wasn’t one to brag about his unique life experiences, but occasionally something would come up, which is how I learned that he had piloted a fighter jet.”

“Jim didn't always talk much about his experiences, but he was proud of his service to the Navy,” Dickey says. “Jim always made a point of telling people that he was never in Vietnam -- he spent his time over it.”

After the war, Swartz completed graduate school at the Ohio State University and went on to become a faculty member in instructional design and technology at the University of Arkansas. After arriving at Miami in 2004, he continued to keep his OSU traditions alive by proudly displaying the flag of his alma mater in an office window.

And alongside his enduring passion for the Buckeyes, Swartz also loved animals -- especially his dog, BJ, and his horse, Mya -- which helped create additional bonds between colleagues.

“Once Jim discovered my love for horses, we became bonded in the equine world,” says Roxann Sommers, EHS director of student services. “We shared stories of our adventures through this connection. I remember when he made the hard decision to let his girl Mya go to a new home because it was the best decision for them both. I will miss our talks about horses and will conclude with Jim's often final words to me, ‘I just love horses.’” 

Even as his health began to decline, and as retirement age approached, Swartz never slowed down or stopped to rest on his many laurels. In recent years, he didn’t hesitate to jump into online teaching, and he continued to work on new projects.

“Even in fall 2020, when the halls were fairly empty, you could often find him in his office working on courses,” says Amity Noltemeyer, EDP professor and associate dean of the graduate school. “Jim made an important impact on so many students. Last year, Jim told me he was very proud to be added to the editorial board of a new journal that his former advisee started.”

The dynamic legacy and accomplished career of Jim Swartz will continue to live on within the memories of those who knew him. He is survived by his wife Dorothy and his brother John, and he will be missed by all.

“Like so many, I remember Jim’s stories, but I always appreciated Jim’s warmth and gentle disposition,” says Susan Mosley-Howard, EDP Professor emeritus. “May the ‘fair winds and following seas’ carry you now Jim.”

Services for Jim Swartz have not yet been arranged.