Messenger - Vol. 2, No. 2, Page 16
Winter 1993
Jim Soles

     You have the opportunity as a teacher/adviser to set an example of how
to conduct yourself. The dignity with which you treat people, the
seriousness with which you approach your job and the enthusiasm with which
you approach your job can be a little contagious. I have tried to be
contagious," James R. Soles, chairperson of the Department of Political
Science and International Relations, says.
     James Soles has indeed been contagious and in a most wonderful way.
     Soles was recently named the University's first Alumni Distinguished
Professor, a designation recognizing his demonstrated excellence in
teaching during a distinguished career.
     Soles was nominated for this honor by close to a dozen colleagues on
the campus, and his file of support also included letters of recommendation
and remembrance from former students. The file is at least two inches
     Soles is celebrating his 25th year at the University, and, although he
is chairing the Department of Political Science and International
Relations, he still assigns himself to teach large introductory courses on
American government.
     And, he still advises students-listening compassionately to their
problems and pain, hearing back from them in joy and sorrow long after they
have graduated.
     The soft-spoken gentleman from Virginia, known for the fresh carnation
(usually red) that he wears each day, has invested countless hours in
hundreds of students' lives. He is modest to a fault and says putting the
portfolio together for his nomination was the most embarrassing thing he
has ever had to do.
     "I am very pleased to be named to the professorship, of course, but
the first selection is really symbolic," Soles said. "The most important
thing is the way this recognizes people who devote themselves to teaching."
     Barbra F. Andrisani, former director of alumni relations, said,
"Alumni are most interested in the undergraduate educational experience at
the University, and the Alumni Distinguished Professorship enables
exemplary undergraduate teaching to be recognized and celebrated."
     Soles has twice been the recipient of the University's
Excellence-in-Teaching Award and, in l988, was awarded the
Excellence- in-Advising Award.
     "Teaching is simply what I do as I understand it," Soles says.
"Everyone is a teacher. We teach little children to walk and to tie their
shoes. My particular niche as a teacher has been with college-age students.
It has been my privilege and opportunity to work with young adults. It is
an awesome task and an awesome opportunity. They are at the point where
they can be taught to love learning and the excitement and satisfaction
that comes from learning.
     "The classroom is a place for intellectual engagement. Everyone should
feel free to ask whatever it is they want to ask and not be shot down. I
promise my students room to venture and explore. We need to teach students
to ask as well as to answer."
     Advising goes hand in hand with teaching, he says.
     "Advising is very important because students are making a lot of
decisions that are just very important to them. Every crisis that can occur
in life can occur to a college student. The world tends to look at college
students as an elite group with no problems, and it may be that while they
are in college, they are having a great deal of fun. However, they are also
facing many problems and, at times, without a great deal of preparation. As
an adviser, I try to help them address those problems and encourage
students to recognize and grasp their potential."
     The implications of Soles' encouragement to students has had
wide-ranging implications across the nation. His former students are active
in many roles in public life. The letters in his nomination portfolio bear
the letterheads of prominent law firms in several states, the Office of the
Governor of the state of New Jersey, the mayor's office in Glendale, Colo.,
the Office of the County Counsel in Camden County, N.J., the Center for
Public Integrity in Washington, D.C., and more.
     "It has been part of the role I play in this state to encourage other
people," Soles says, modestly.
     That encouragement extends to people in all political parties, for
Soles never lets his own political preferences be known in class. At the
end of each year, most classes are equally divided in their opinion of his
voter registration card.
     Ironically, his nomination portfolio includes a letter of support from
Robert E. Chadwick, executive director of the Republican State Committee of
Delaware, and one from James A. Farrell, director of the Democratic State
Party Coordinated Campaign l992.
     Chadwick writes that Soles "literally took me under his wing. His
guidance and personal attention were the key ingredients which allowed me
to flourish both as a student and as a young man trying to find my way in
the world."
     Farrell says that Soles "has played an incomparable, central role in
my choice of a career. I often think that were it not for having met him, I
would today be engaged in dramatically different work."
     The few times that there has been a majority in the annual classroom
vote on whether Soles is a Republican or Democrat, a small majority have
thought him Republican.
     He is, in fact, a Democrat and ran unsuccessfully for Congress in
l974. The incumbent congressman, Pete du Pont, had the name recognition
factor in his favor, Soles concedes.
     Yet, no politician's telephone could be busier than Soles'. An average
of five constituents (alumni) call him each day.
     For, although he has not inspired their choice of political party,
Soles has inspired their lives. There are three values that he works hard
to instill in each student he teaches: human dignity, human freedom and
human equality. "These are the prerequisite values for a decent society,"
he says. "They are three values I am not prepared to compromise on. They
are necessary for the world I want to live in."
                                   -Beth Thomas