James Aune’s apparent suicide this week at Texas A&M University stunned the campus and the broader academic community – especially rhetoricians, among whom he was a leading scholar.
Since Tuesday, when 59-year-old Aune died after jumping from a campus parking garage, students and colleagues have remembered him on social networking pages and in news accounts as a dedicated teacher and mentor possessing both a vibrant personality and mastery of written and oral language, not someone who outwardly demonstrated mental health issues.
"My favorite of many great professors in the [communications department] at TAMU, Jim was always an inspiration through his wit, candor, curiosity, and generosity," reads one post on a memorial website. "As a grad student, I knew I wanted to think and teach like him; he taught me so much. At the bottom of one paper I turned in, he wrote: 'Thanks. I learned a lot.' I've never seen such a kind comment on an essay, and I'll never forget it. Nor Jim."
Moreover, Aune was a tenured faculty member and chair of the department of communications – that is, someone obviously accomplished and removed from many of the stressors associated with a younger professor’s career trajectory.