James Denise McGowan
On Friday, March 7, 2014, the IWU English Department lost Professor Emeritus James
Celebration of Jim's Life--Wednesday, April 16th, 4 pm in the Young Main Lounge of
the Memorial Center
All are invited to a Celebration of Life service for Professor Emeritus James McGowan tomorrow (Wednesday,
April 16) at the Young Main Lounge, Memorial Center. The gathering begins at 4 p.m.,
followed by a meal in Joslin Atrium.
James died March 7. He was a member of the IWU English department from 1969-2000 before
Poet of Cats
I trust you will notice that I
am the cat named Piscataway
because I am once from new jersey
you may wish to admire my coat
sleek grey with black stripes
and memorable touches of cinnamon
I am mrs mcgowans friend
and I am the resident poet
which I have been since 19 and 72
during which time I have composed
all of the professors poems
there are some who admire my baudelaire
would you like to scratch my ears
come in yes come into the house
we will call for a saucer of milk
and if you will pardon my french
you will enjoy a very nice chatte
-- John Knoepfe
Poetical Pussycat, McLean County Festival
thank you for noticing me
and for addressing my poetic achievements
but I must tell you
I did not always live here with the professor and Anne
in my youth I made my living
as pursuer of squirrels
that was when I ranged through the neighborhood
before I deigned to favor
any one family
true I was a poor hunter
and that was a lowpoint in my life
but now I have become a normal poet
and feline role model
like others I sleep in the sun
and climb onto the laps of those with allergies
I can play short piano pieces of my own composition/
I like staying out late on warn nights
and a recreational hit of catnip
but to be petted
that is special
when my fur is stroked
my head is scratched
and I am appreciated for my body
as well as my art
that is when I feel safe
and lose my anxiety
over low prosaic cats in streets and alleys
oh but forgive me prattling
and let me thank you again
for your sensitive and understanding
poem concerning myself.
April 15, 2014
NORMAL — James Denise McGowan, of Normal, breathed his last at 4:55 a.m. on March
7, 2014. He died peacefully at home at age 75.
A celebration of life will be at 4 p.m. Wednesday in Young Main Lounge, Illinois Wesleyan
University Memorial Student Center, Bloomington, with buffet supper following.
For years he soldiered on heroically despite his increasing disability caused by pulmonary
sarcoidosis. He never smoked.
Jim was born June 7, 1938, in Neptune, N.J., the eldest son of Martin Raymond McGowan
and Ruth Denise McGowan. They predeceased him, as did a younger brother, John Charles.
He was educated in Freehold and Howell Township schools and graduated from Middlebury
College and Rutgers University with a doctorate degree in English. He carved out a
distinguished career as a teacher, poet, traveler and translator, with noteworthy
publications in his name.
He married Anne Weston McGowan on July 3, 1958, at Fort Devens, Mass. They had three
children, Andrew John (Laura) McGowan, Topeka, Kan.; Caitlin (Anthony) Visser, Las
Vegas, Nev.; and Michael James McGowan, Durham, N.C.
The family enjoyed time in Southwest Harbor, Maine. They all survive him, as do three
grandsons, Benjamin, Joseph and Eric Visser, Las Vegas, Nev.
Jim is also survived by his sister, Mary Patricia Hickey, Clonmel, Ireland, and his
brother, Martin Raymond McGowan, Oceanport, N.J.
Memorials may be made to Illinois Wesleyan University or United Way.
Cremation service was provided by Calvert & Metzler Memorial Home, Bloomington.
Condolences and memories may be shared at www.calvertmemorial.com.
Four Professors Retire From Illinois Wesleyan University
May 16, 2000
Professor of English James McGowan has served as director of IWU's May Term Program
for the past four years.
During his teaching career at IWU, McGowan received numerous awards for his poetry,
including the Illinois Arts Council Literary Award in 1980. McGowan also participated
in the Illinois Author's Book Fair held at Illinois State University's Milner Library
in November 1995, and acted in Heartland Theatre's production of Tennessee Williams'
"Cat On A Hot Tin Roof."
A native of Neptune, N.J., McGowan received his bachelor's degree in 1959 at Middlebury
College and a master's degree in 1965 and a Ph.D. in English at Rutgers University
in 1968. McGowan's interests include the historical consideration of American poetry
and the poetry of Charles Baudelaire. In 1975, McGowan published 66 translations of
the original French version of Baudelaire's poems "Les Fleurs du Mal" (The Flowers
of Evil). McGowan's other publications include a poetry book entitled "Each Other--"Where
We Are," and "Benchmark: Anthology of Illinois Poetry," which he co-edited with Lynn
Devore, IWU associate professor and chair of the English department.
McGowan is a member of Illinois Writer's Inc. and various local literary and historical
societies. He resides in Bloomington with his wife Anne. The couple have three grown
In retirement, McGowan plans to travel to Ireland and write poetry.
IWU Digital Commons
Sestina: Knowledge and Wisdom
Poem for the Inauguration of Richard F. Wilson
by James McGowan, Professor of English Emeritus
This is a happy day at IWU,
bestowing trust upon a man to lead us
in our work in offices, in classrooms,
laboratories, studios - pursuing knowledge,
as we say, and hoping to inspire
students to begin the quest for wisdom
If we can. But it is rare, this wisdom,
and is it often seen, even at IWU?
No guarantee, though we persist, and may inspire
students and ourselves toward this high goal. For us
it's best we concentrate on knowledge.
“Knowledge” and “college” rhyme. Our classrooms
are appropriate for its pursuit - classrooms
of philosophy, of science: the “wisdom
of the ages” or the sudden thrust of knowledge
at the cutting edge. At IWU
things sometimes happen that astonish us.
Teachers and students work together to inspire
breakthroughs in physics, or a poem may inspire
a piece of music. Practiced in our classrooms,
art displays, performances extend to us
a felt experience, a kind of wisdom
of imagination, proved along the nerves. You
need this too, another kind of knowledge.
There is a menace in America today: Knowledge
mis-valued by myopic moralists, who inspire
bigotry we must deplore at IWU,
smug ignorance we must challenge and oppose. Classrooms
of learned give and take expand our minds Wisdom
may be elusive anywhere, but as for us
we see where wisdom's not. It's up to us
to meet the new Know-Nothings in the name of knowledge,
excellence of intellect, a sign of wisdom.
Sicne is spurned, language debased; let us inspire
Attention, mental vigilance in all our classrooms.
May you be steadfast in this struggle, IWU.
We stand for knowledge as we hope for wisdom
to inspire us in classrooms, in our lives.
Scientia, Sapientia. IWU.