James Howard Reynolds, III, of Brevard, NC, 70, died on April 20 after a brief illness. Known as “JR” to the legion of students and colleagues that he encountered during a lengthy career, Jim was a brilliant, dedicated, and inspirational professor of Geology at Brevard College, who loved nothing more than to take his students into the field and expose them to the wonders of this amazing planet. He led trips, initially of his own design, but later also under the auspices of the Smithsonian, to Iceland, Patagonia, Hawaii, the Galapagos Islands, Machu Pichu, and many other locations.
What made his energetic trips all the more remarkable was his medical history – at age 27, he suffered a cerebral aneurysm that temporarily paralyzed his left side, which caused him to walk with a limp for the rest of his life and compromised the use of his left hand. At the time, having received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Dartmouth College, and having worked for two years for the West Virginia Geological Survey, he was working on his doctorate at UMass-Amherst. He was forced to withdraw, but after a year on the staff at Colgate University, in his beloved home town of Hamilton, NY, he enrolled in the doctoral program at Dartmouth and completed his Ph.D. Teaching positions at Norwich University in Vermont and at Western Carolina University preceded his hiring at Brevard in 1999, where he spent the rest of his career, retiring in 2019. Fluent in Spanish, he also spent a sabbatical semester teaching at Universidad Nacional de San Juan, in San Juan, Argentina, on a Fulbright scholarship.
In addition to his teaching duties, Jim was active outside of academia. He was a board member of the Galapagos Conservancy for several years and was active in the Sierra Club, including a term as regional director for Western North Carolina. He was also a dedicated environmentalist and was a leader in convincing the Trustees of Brevard College to divest from fossil fuel companies and committing the college to recycling.
Following his retirement, he continued to lead field trips and wrote an impressive book, A Traveler’s Guide to the Roadside Geology of Iceland, which was published in the fall of 2022. The book combines stunning photography with Jim’s intimate knowledge of Iceland and its geology.
Jim was predeceased by his father, James Howard Reynolds, Jr., and is survived by his wife, Mary Kay Sonsini Reynolds, his mother, Shirley C. Reynolds, of Hamilton, NY, his brother Jeff (Hopkinton, MA), his sister Leslie Sautter (Johns Island, SC), his daughters, Elise Holmes (Minturn, CO) and her two children, Apollo and Ember, and Elena (Oak Creek, CO) and her daughter Ellie, and his stepdaughters Alicia Long (Charlotte, NC) and Kristin Mills McClellan (Asheville, NC), as well as six cousins and seven nieces/nephews, and by his former spouse, Haidee Wilson (Waynesville, NC).
JR touched many lives and will be sorely missed. He was quite a guy.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (www.lls.org)