Education professor championed LGBTQ+ community

Olivia Modarelli
Copy Editor

University of La Verne professor of education emeritus Dr. Jim Dunne died Nov. 20 in his home in Sedona, Arizona. He was 87 years old.                                        

He earned his bachelor’s degree from Loyola University, Chicago; his master’s degree from California State University, Northridge, and his Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University before taking on his role at the University of La Verne.

His almost 40-year career at the University spanned from 1978 until his retirement in 2009. During his time here, he also served as chairman of the reading program. After retirement he moved to Sedona.

“He was an excellent instructor,” said Barbara Nicoll, professor emerita of education, who worked with Dunne for many years. 

“He truly was an outstanding teacher in terms of his depth of knowledge in the field of reading,” said Lynn Stanton-Riggs, professor emerita of child development.

His creative endeavors enhanced his ability to be an effective teacher.

“Jim was a gifted musician, aficionado of the arts, and an outstanding writer,” President Pardis Mahdavi said in an emailed statement on Nov. 29. “He believed in the importance of knowing and understanding both left and right brain approaches to training teachers.”

Professor of Music Reed Gratz said that this creative side to Dr. Dunne was a natural part of his personality.  

“He really had an artistic sense,” Gratz said. “And teaching was his primary art and I think that’s how he approached it too.”

His lasting legacy is defined not only  by these talents but by the way he lived his life with kindness and compassion as well. 

“He was a kind, gentle soul,” Professor of Teacher Education Anita Flemington said, who added that Dunne made others feel important.

“Jim was really such a kind person and so knowledgeable about human interaction that he was…instrumental in bringing people together,” Nicoll said. 

Stanton-Riggs said that Dunne was an advocate for inclusion, particularly for the LGBTQ+ community. 

He was one of the first advisors for ULV’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or GLBU, club.

“In a large university, these issues (of sexual identity) can just get lost,” Dunne told the Campus Times in a 1991 story about the club. “At La Verne, it will not be that easy to get lost. The club will be quite visible at ULV. Gays have been held in scorn for too long. Society dismisses the roles that run counter to their own.”

He told the Campus Times at the time that all were welcome to join the club, regardless of their sexual orientation. 

He also organized the La Verne AIDS Walk team in 1993, according to a Campus Times article from that year.

“He left an indelible mark on the University of La Verne,” Mahdavi said in her email message.

“It was a sad day when he left La Verne and went on to do other things, but he left his mark in the fact that people still remember him several decades after he left,” said Al Clark, professor emeritus of humanities. “The world is better for Jim Dunne being here and so is the University of La Verne.”

Dr. Dunne’s death was preceded by that of his life partner Jack Noyes.

Olivia Modarelli can be reached at

Olivia Modarelli, a senior journalism major with a concentration in print-online journalism, is a staff photographer for the Campus Times. She previously served as a staff writer and copy editor.


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