Jim Flanagan began his Notre Dame career at the same time we did. After graduating from Seton Hall in New Jersey, he began his graduate studies and his teaching in the fall of 1964. His freshman English class included Tom Condon and Mike Baroody, whose liking for this energetic, encouraging force from Jersey City, NJ attracted numbers of us. While earning his doctorate, Jim began teaching at St. Mary’s College and then continued for a year or two after earning the Ph.D. He wrote his dissertation and, later, one of his books about the playwright Arthur Miller. But his achievements and his significant learning were always subordinate to the ambitions he fostered in his students. After returning to New Jersey, he taught at Monmouth College and settled nearby with his family. Bravely, he and his wife Pat raised their children Kevin, Patrick and Rachel (a future Notre Dame grad) after the two divorced. Jim wrote the novel “The Crossing” and began teaching in an Asbury Park middle school serving kids with more problems than advantages. He had found his place for an energetic career of teaching, writing, storytelling, parenting, local politics and community involvement. At his house, after his funeral, children darted among aunts, cousins, neighbors, siblings and former students telling stories of the great man who died of a heart attack on Labor Day, 2012 at the age of 72.
In April, Jim wrote a letter that his daughter Rachel had coaxed out of him. His advice to his five grandchildren caught his voice and provoked the attention of his neighbors first, then readers around the world. The two-page letter included here has appeared in an Irish newspaper and has been discussed on Australian attention.