PC mourns the loss of professor emeritus Dr. Jim Stidham

PC mourns the loss of professor emeritus Dr. Jim Stidham

Presbyterian College is mourning the loss of one of its most memorable professors this week after learning of the passing of Dr. Jim Stidham.

A professor emeritus of biology, Stidham served at PC for 45 years. He was 87.

Stidham joined the PC faculty in 1967 after earning his Ph.D. in biology from the University of Tennessee and performing postdoctoral research at the University of Miami’s Institute of Marine Science.

Dr. Jim Stidham, Professor Emeritus of Biology

An avid scuba diver, Stidham led numerous field excursions with students to marine sites and ecosystems worldwide. With his colleague in the biology department, the late Dr. Fred James, Stidham laid the foundation for PC’s experience-based Maymester classes. He loved classic cars, traveling, and spending summers doing research in Maine.

But mostly, he loved science – whether it was being explored outdoors, in a laboratory, or a classroom.

“I never met anyone who was more in love with science,” said longtime biology colleague Dr. Jim Wetzel. “Jim sparkled when he talked about science in all areas and he had a way of talking about it that made science seem like it was a magic discipline.”

Wetzel said Stidham was a big reason why he came to PC to teach. The two met at a biomedical research laboratory in Maine when Wetzel was still a graduate student.

“Here was Jim Stidham, this professor from a small college in South Carolina, standing shoulder to shoulder with researchers from around the world, including the Max Planck Institute,” Wetzel said. “But he treated me like a friend and a fellow scientist from the beginning and he set the stage for me to come to PC.”

Biology colleague Diane Rischbieter said Stidham’s love of marine habitats included flora and fauna.

“I remember the set ups of his marine biology labs would include incredible specimens, not just of animals but of the algae,” she noted. “Often plants get overlooked by instructors who are not botanists – but not Jim. He would include algae back in the lab so that students could observe how the plant would be in its native habitat.”

But what Diane Rischbieter remembers most fondly is Jim’s hospitality alongside his former wife, PC professor of psychology emerita Dr. Ann Stidham. Diane and her husband, biology professor Dr. Mike Rischbieter, were still relatively new to PC when their daughter Jennie was born right before Christmas in 1989.

“Jennie was born on Dec. 16, so we were not able to travel to our respective family homes,” Diane Rischbieter said. “Jim and Ann not only invited us to their house for Christmas dinner but made us feel like family.”

Doug Wallace was PC’s brand-new director of media services when he first met Jim and Ann Stidham in the early 1990s.

“They took me in as family as soon as I arrived in Clinton,” he said. “They were relentless entertainers of students and Jim hosted some of the all-time greatest send-off dinners for biology seniors – cooking steaks to perfection on his back deck using multiple grills.”

Stidham’s friendly demeanor and generous spirit also extended to other people’s families, Mike Rischbieter recalled.

“I was in New York at my parents’ summer home up in the Adirondacks,” he said. “Jim was at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory in Maine and decided to come down for a weekend visit. He drove his beautiful red Triumph TR6, and when he arrived, my mom just couldn’t believe how nice it looked. So, Jim asked if she would like a ride and off they went! My mom talked about that moment for years!”

Jim Stidham is survived by his two sons, Bart and Thad, and five grandchildren.