James Madison University

Faculty Emeritus Jim Benedict’s Continued Love of Learning

Published: 7/26/2016
By Erik Inglis

Jim Benedict

From 1977 to 2007, Dr.  Jim Benedict manned the podiums and ambled the halls of James Madison University (JMU). During his 30-year tenure working at JMU, he taught an array of Psychology courses at both the undergraduate and graduate level including statistics, learning, consciousness, and the psychology of stress. As head of many faculty search committees, he had a hand in hiring a number of professors currently teaching in the department including Dr. Kevin Apple (the current Department Head) and 11 others. He was an active member of this campus, served on a large number of thesis committees, and received numerous awards for his work at JMU. 

Since his retirement, Dr. Benedict has continued to pursue his wide-ranging interests.  Recently, he pursued excellence in another area and earned his Master of Music (M.M.). Putting the degree to good use, he has spent time volunteering at the Chautauqua Institution, a cultural education and music center in Western New York. In addition, he directs the handbell choir at his church, sings in a gospel quartet, and participates on the Advisory Board of the Shenandoah Bach Festival at Eastern Mennonite University. Currently, he is a certified by the State Supreme Court to mediate disputes between parents for custody and visitation with their children.  Viticulture is another devotion of his. He and his wife Joyce planted a vineyard in 1995 which currently supplies an impressive yield of six tons of wine grapes.

Generous with his time, Jim volunteers regularly for organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and as a server at a soup kitchen. Further, he acts as a mentor for the Valley Scholars Program, which provides local high school students with assistance and opportunities to become leaders both in the classroom and in the community. This JMU program nurtures prospective first-generation college students in their pursuit of a college education.  

Jim continues to mentor students. For about 6 years after stepping down from his full-time post, he taught an advanced statistics course annually. He considers the interactions with his students to be rewarding. “It keeps me young,” he offers with a grin.  Recently, he served on a doctoral dissertation committee for a former student and advisee at Virginia Tech. This student later remarked to Jim, “You were the first person who made math make sense.”  Since retiring, Jim has also served as a consultant to the Center for Faculty Innovation (CFI).  In this role, Jim meets with JMU faculty to help improve their teaching.

Since 2009, the Department has given the Benedict award to a student each year without providing a scholarship.  These students have shown interest in college teaching by being undergraduate teaching assistants/tutors for a variety of classes including Psychological Statistics, Psychological Research Methods, Abnormal Psychology, Career Development, Peer Advising, and the Psychology Learning Community. Read more information about these impressive students.

 Once the Benedict Scholarship is endowed, the Department of Psychology will be able to select an outstanding senior student to receive a financial scholarship that will help pay the recipient’s JMU tuition.  The fund is close to being endowed, but additional funds are needed before the Department can award any scholarships.  Jim is hopeful that the Department will soon be able to award a scholarship to students who embody his passion and dedication to higher education.  Learn more about supporting the Benedict Scholarship (and other Departmental funds).

The James O. Benedict Scholarship Endowment in Psychology will be awarded to students with a strong interest in teaching higher education. Jim hopes that the scholarship will act as a reward and encouragement for students who are keen on tutoring or serving as an undergraduate teaching assistant. He firmly holds that as a teacher you have a real chance to make a difference. Jim believes that professors are some of the luckiest people around because they are able to both interact with and creatively find means to impart knowledge to young students.

In preparation for this article, I sat down with Jim to talk about his career. Early in our discussion I mentioned that I taught the laboratory portion for a Psychological Measurement and Statistics Course. Not one to shy away from a chance at instruction, Jim jumped at the opportunity to give me a few pointers on how to teach Analysis of Variance to my students and have it resonate with examples and a brief demonstration. Even in this brief interview Jim demonstrated and impressed upon me his passion for teaching. The hope is that this scholarship will ignite a similar passion for teaching in others.