For James Coleman on His Retirement:
How many times have I passed James’s office on the second floor of Greenlaw on my way to the copying room or somewhere nearby and noted his door open, a student inside and maybe one or two others on the floor outside waiting to see him? James is leaning slightly forward and it’s the same every time I go by: his attention is totally fixed on the student, clearly eager to assist in whatever question or problem or observation the student has brought. What registers with me is the graciousness of it all, the civility. It’s the trait I’ve noticed most about James over the years, how much he cares about his students—first-years all the way to dissertation-level graduate students. In his own uniquely humble and generous way, he treats his colleagues with a quality quite similar: with a smile, eager to discuss the fiction of John Edgar Wideman, or offer his astute observations about last night’s Tar Heel basketball game, or inquire about his interlocutors and what’s going on in their lives. I suspect that some of our colleagues may be unaware of his truly distinguished publishing record and service record. I wish James a long and happy retirement. You’ve earned it, James, but it won’t be the same without your daily presence. Thanks for being such a special friend to me, and from that we won’t let you retire!