Dr James Francis McNamara

james mcnamara

September 5, 1936 ~ August 31, 2022

Born in: Pittsburgh, Pennslyvania
Resided in: College Station, Texas

James Francis McNamara was born on September 5, 1936 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was raised in Philadelphia by his loving parents Cornelius Ignatius(Neil) and Rose Helen Proesl McNamara. He loved spending most summers with his mother’s extended family in the rural setting of Ridgeway and St. Marys, PA.

He attended St. Joseph’s Prep until age 14 when his mother died. He then attended West Catholic High School until he enlisted at age 17 in the U. S. Army in 1953.

He completed both basic and engineering training at Fort Leonard Wood, MO. This was followed by attending the Combat Engineering Training Program at Fort Belvoir, VA. He spent the balance of his volunteer enlistment serving as a U.S. Army engineer on several airbases in France where he was a construction foreman for NATO civil engineering projects such as extending the runway of the Bordeaux Airport for heavy duty bombers and reinforcing French coastal roads to accommodate heavy portable atomic cannons. He was assigned to SCARWAF (Special Category Army with the Air Force).

While still in France he completed USAFI courses on the U.S.Air Force Base in St. Nazaire. Despite other states honoring this program, the PA Department of Public Instruction considered him a high school dropout. He never let this be a problem. Jim was honorably discharged in 1956, and he received the National Defense and Good Conduct medals and the Korean War G. I. Bill to further his education.

He met Maryanne Wimberg in the summer of 1959 at the “Jersey Shore” in Ocean City in front of the Chatterbox restaurant, an iconic landmark that was a popular and festive gathering place for young people in the fifties.They were married on August 17, 1963 in St. Mary’s Cathedral in Trenton, NJ.

He used his Korean War G.I. Bill to earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting from St. Joseph’s University, a Jesuit academic bastion, near his home in Philadelphia. His books and writings were inscribed with AMDG, Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, the motto of the Jesuits. He earned his master’s degree in mathematics and PhD in educational administration from the Pennsylvania State University.

Before pursuing a career in higher education, Jim spent three years teaching high school mathematics and calculus in New Jersey, and four years as a state-level administrator and demographer in the PA Department of Education.

Following his academic studies, he held three professorships at the University of Oregon in Eugene (OR), Texas A&M in College Station (TX), and Columbia University in Manhattan (NY).

From 1970-73 he was a research associate at the Center for Advanced Study of Educational Administration (CASEA) at the University of Oregon.

In August 1973 Jim arrived with his wife, four children, and their Irish setter at Texas A&M. Then, in 1975 he was recruited for a teaching position at Columbia University. One icy day in New York City he answered a call from Frank W. R. Hubert, then Dean of the College of Education, who spoke of shirt-sleeve weather in Texas, offering Jim a generous position should he return to Texas A&M.

Jim and his family trekked back to Texas A&M to continue his 38 year teaching career there. He held joint appointments in Statistics and in Educational Psychology, directing many doctoral dissertations, two of which won national awards as best dissertations in their fields.

As an educational policy researcher he appeared as an expert witness on desegregation policies before the U.S. District Court (Houston), and he delivered numerous research lectures such as to the National Academy of School Executives, the Rand Corporation (Santa Monica, CA) and the InterAmerican Congress of Psychology (Caracas, Venezuela).

He received the 1990 Faculty Research Award from the Instructional Research Laboratory at Texas A&M. In 1999 he received the Faculty Distinguished Teaching Award from the Texas A&M University Alumni Association. Many other awards, publications, and presentations filled his four decade career. He retired in 2010 as Professor Emeritus.

Jim loved his children and grandchildren, and loved attending their events, from Little League, football, to college-level volleyball, tennis, baseball, and basketball games. He served as treasurer of Little League baseball, and he was an active volunteer with the youth soccer program.He especially loved grandchildren’s graduation ceremonies, the last three viewed remotely. He also enjoyed all Aggie sports, holding season tickets in both men’s and women’s sports.

For several years following his own heart surgery, Jim was an active member of Brazos Valley Mended Hearts, visiting and encouraging heart surgery patients in St. Joseph’s Hospital. An adept poker player, he especially enjoyed his role as Celebrity Dealer at fundraisers for Brazos Valley Hospice.

During his final days Jim reflected on his very early life. He mentioned the beauty of his father’s tenor singing voice, the early morning walks with his mother to mass at St. Francis De Sales in Philadelphia where he served as an altar boy, and picking blueberries on a hill in St. Marys PA during the cherished summers he spent there.

He was preceded in death by his parents Cornelius and Rose McNamara, his beloved aunt, Sister Margaret Arcelia (St. Joseph’s Home, Erie, PA), and recently by his brother-in-law Joseph F. Wimberg (NJ), and sister-in-law Judith Wimberg ( Ft. Worth).

Jim was deeply loved by his family, friends, students, and colleagues. Survivors include his wife of 59 years, Maryanne McNamara, children, Paul Christopher McNamara and wife Terranova (Terra) Potvin (Houston), Raymond Joseph and wife Alexandra (Ali) McNamara (Tallahassee), Julianne McNamara and Ronald Willis (Tallahassee), and Neil Frederick McNamara (College Station). Grandchildren, Joseph McNamara, Andrew McNamara, Tanner McNamara, Tyndall McNamara, Aubrey Knight, Bryanne Shott, Stephany Potvin, and Samantha Otte. Brother John McNamara and wife Kathleen (Exton, PA). Sisters-in-law Laurel Wimberg (Fort Worth), Sally Sikora (NJ), brothers-in-law Raymond Wimberg (Fort Worth) and Christopher Wimberg(NJ), nieces Judith Laurel Wimberg, Lisa West, and Diane West. Devoted friend, Helen Brinley.
His beloved little spaniel, Lana, will miss him.

The McNamara family thanks Dr. Stephen Tseng who added years to Jim’s life through diligent care. Thanks to Dr. Jason Westin of MD Anderson, Dr. Erin Fleener and the wonderful St. Joseph’s Cancer Clinic team, and to the extraordinary care of the Brazos Valley Hospice professionals during his final days.

A burial service at the Aggie Field of Honor will take place in early December when family members will again gather.

Donations in memory of Jim can be made to the Aggieland Humane Society and to Brazos Valley Hospice.

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    • Yes Terra, he will be deeply missed.

      So blessed we all are to have you as a super cool part of our ohana! Can still hear the laughter and see the smiles that you and Paul brought Jimmy in the sunset of his life; especially as those magical weeks next to the ocean unfolded in Southern California during June and July of 2021 and that fun Hawaii togetherness we all had. Mahalo nui for all that planning!!!

  1. Sending all the love and prayers to Maryanne and Paul and family. Jim was such a lovely man and he was always putting a smile on my face! May he rest peacefully

  2. What an amazing man Jim was I had no idea how accomplished he was the world is a little darker now that he’s gone. Thinking of the McNamara family during this time.

  3. Such a scholar with enthusiasm and wit! Jimmy, you brought smiles and laughter into the lives of so many; and into our lives whether at our family reunion in Egg Harbor NJ or on the other side of the world at our Waiheke Island picnic during the weeks we cousins “played house” together on Trinity Street in Auckland, New Zealand!

    As your soul is being dispersed, i pray these seven Wednesdays, that it flows in all your desired places…to bring more smiles like yours.

    Until we meet again,
    Auf wiedersehen

    (from me, Don, Marion and a bunch of your Wimbergs : )

  4. Maryanne and family,
    I just read of Jim’s passing and want to express my sympathy to the entire family. It was a beautiful obituary and I learned so much about him that I didn’t know. A life so very welled lived. I will pray for all of you. Blessings and peace,
    Patti Ljungdahl

  5. Maryanne and family,
    I just read about Jim’s passing. What a beautiful obituary. I learned so much about his life I didn’t know. You guys will miss him, but, what a wonderful legacy he leaves. Just know you will be in my thoughts and prayers. Blessings and peace.
    Patti Ljungdahl

  6. What a wonderful guy. He was always ready to talk sports and had great sense of humor. My prayers go out to Maryanne and all of the family.

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