Prof. Paxson's courses on Chaucer and the Literature of Science were the two most impactful courses I have ever taken. That was six years ago. Somehow, I still know the general prologue to the Canterbury Tales by heart, and find that I recite it every once in a while out of the blue. Each time, I have in mind Paxson's bold pronunciation of the Middle English, open book in hand, striding between the aisles of desks. I was looking for his email address just now, but found this obituary instead. I was going to thank him for providing such a powerful creative avenue for expression in those undergrad classes, and to tell him that I am about to defend my PhD thesis in Volcanology on Monday. He would have thought that was pretty cool. I know that Paxson's unabashed enthusiasm for all things communicated in scientific language has stuck with me, and I feel incredibly privileged to have known such an inspiring man.
Recently (Feb 2012) I came across Prof. Paxson's study of Kepler's Somnium. I wanted to know about his more recent work and the internet trail led me to this poignant but noble obituary of a good scholar of literature and science and a good family man.
Dr Stephen Pumfrey (History of Science, Lancaster University, U.K..)
I only took one survey class in Old English with Professor Paxson, and I can say with the conviction of a labored and tried student that Jim's intellect challenged his warmth, his warmth shepherded me through one of the most trying periods of my life, and now that my life has softened it will be my honor to work with gratitude to strengthen the legacy of a man I didn't know well but knew proudly. If Jim's knowledge was bequeathed to our world in his passing, then many problems will be soon solved.You are all in my thoughts.
There are no words to express to you my deepest sympathy for both Jimmy and Jerry. They were two very different guys with very different ideals. However,they both were very loved in our little neighborhood on south chicot avenue in west islip...We all have shared a very common bond living on that block....the childhood memories with your boys are etched in our hearts forever....may the good Lord hold you in his arms and comfort you all the days of your life.
your old neighbor,
Professor Paxson, you changed my life by giving both courage and inspiration. My career choice and much of the person I am, I attribute to you and your teachings. How rare a person you were, how marvelous an example you are. You will never be forgotten.
The three of us have so many memories of the summers you Tammy Maggie and John spent up here. All of our nature walks around West Islip with rootbeer. So much time has passed since we've all seen eachother last. We will all always regret not reaching out sooner. There are so many things that everyone will miss about you. Especially your humor and your ability to not sweat the small stuff. But most of all for us, we will always miss the Homer Simpson impression.. DOH!
Mandy Tracey and Greg
Jim, so sorry for you and for your family. Who could know all those years ago in West Islip that I would not have gotten a chance to see you again. Who could know, that your interest in Chemistry and Science, and your fascination with writing would have carried you so far. I remember so much of our friendship and growing up together. tracing Willets Creek, even try to write a story about it. You taught me so much. Remembering the lifting work outs in your garage, listening to BTO, taking care of business as you prepared to play Freshman football. Learning to play chess, playing board games on the porch, pick up football and softball in the street. St. Joe's and your transition to Public School in 9th grade...sharing hopes, sharing dreams. I miss you my friend. I have never forgotten you and your family. Dan, rest his soul, Gerry and the bikes and the speed bag, your Mom and your Dad...Henry Eismann's yard... rocket models, trooping through Jim the Bumb's woods, "hitting Mary's with the 95 cents we were able to scrounge...fire crackers on the 4th...I will miss you my friend. We are more because we knew you. The world is less because you've left. God Bless you and your family. I will always and forever be your friend.
Dear Jimmy -
I am so sorry to hear of your passing. We've known each other since we were little kids and there are many fond memories. May your Mom & Gerry find peace in knowing that you are with your Dad & Danny and watching over them. My deepest condolences to your Wife & Children. God speed.
I never got to know Professor Paxon personally but his work on personification inspired me to produce at least two published essays on Langland. As someone who cares for the welfare for all animals, I am deeply touched by the Professor Paxon's care for non-human animals.
arvind thomas,(Post-doctoral Fellow, Fordham university0
Dear Dr. Paxon,
Every day I find that the advice you gave me so long ago is still valid, still echoing in my head. Your passion for your work and your vibrant life set the bar for your students, so that over the course of a simple semester, our lives were changed. You will be forever my professor, but also my friend, a father, a smile on a rainy day, a comforting word during tough times. Now, more than ever, I thank you for what you've given us: thank you for giving us the gift of your heart. Thank you for teaching us, not only what we might find in books, but also truths about ourselves and the world we live in.
We love you and will remember you always.
Professor Paxson, you changed my life.
You gave me the faith to believe in my work.
You gave me the courage to pursue graduate school in the field you loved.
You gave me the friendship of a man whom I will venerate always.
If I can one day be a shred of the professor you were, I will consider my time here well-lived.
I will strive more than ever to be the student you believed in. May you guide us always.