Professor DeVries ends 40-year career

Jim DeVries is closing out his 40-year career as a professor of history and sociology this summer.

“We’re going to miss him a lot; he was almost like an institution here,” said one of DeVries’ closest colleagues at MCCC, William McCloskey.

“There are a lot of students that he had that have gone on and continued to help in the community and done things as far as history is concerned,” he said.

DeVries said the government incentives only influenced him to retire three months earlier than he originally planned, but he did say the new law hurts the future of teaching.

“It’s going to be very difficult to attract new teachers,” DeVries said. “Some teachers will leave early that are outstanding teachers.”

DeVries was saddened when he talked about his early days as a professor at MCCC, saying the staff was much closer then. He said there is a divide because of the generational gap.

“There wasn’t this divide; that has grown with this last administration,” DeVries said.

DeVries said he doesn’t have a favorite student, but likes students who get excited about the subjects that he teaches.

He tries to do that by engaging students in the topic and making the topic relevant to them.

“He really makes you think,” Cynthia McKinley said. “The class is more of a conversation style than a teacher lecture.”

Jennifer Perion, who graduated from MCCC in 1989, said DeVries inspired her to adjust her college goals.

“I cite his class as the point I decided to change my major, and owe my history major to his influence,” she said.

DeVries said he is very thankful that he had the opportunity to be a sociology and history professor at MCCC.

“I couldn’t ask for a better life,” he said. “You know, this is a career I had a passion for. I mean, who else could work for 40 years at something that they love?”

DeVries likes Monroe County because of his love for history, which had been instilled in him as a child.

“The museum is outstanding with primary sources, the library is also outstanding, and there’s a lot of fun things that can be done here in terms of research.”

Along with his love of history, DeVries says he has a passion for reading and collecting books. He looks for books at various locations, such as garage sales.

“It’s an extensive compassion with me,” he said.

McCloskey said DeVries’ home library is large.

“He has the largest library of anybody, any individual I know,” McCloskey said.

DeVries not only reads and collects books, but he has written one as well. He wrote a book about racism in Monroe County, which was published in 1984.

“It was something I was passionate about,” DeVries said.

“In researching this, I began to understand how we develop racism in America.”

DeVries is looking forward to doing many things after he retires. He plans on writing an article about the Monroe Marsh club and continuing to work with the museum and the Monroe labor history museum.

“I’m giving up an identity and moving to something else, that’s okay,” DeVries said.